In a recent hearing before the Kent County Planning Commission (November 3, 2022) a representative for Everton, INC, a New Jersey based corporation, presented a plan for a distribution warehouse on the corner of Edge and Chesterville Bridge Road.
Let us set aside for the moment the cost to the environment, water, and air quality that over 1 million-sf of impervious roof and asphalt surface, 132 truck bays, and the 400 parking spaces proposed for the new distribution warehouses will create, instead focusing on another problem related to the mammoth sized project; the impact on the safety of cyclists.
The access and egress for the proposed warehouses will involve the 291/301 overpass, the two roundabouts, Howard Johnson, Edge, and Chesterville Bridge Roads. The Kent County overpass was built in 1989 before Maryland’s State Legislature mandated that the safety of bike and pedestrian modes of transportation be incorporated in the Maryland Transportation Plan. Current Maryland regulations for shoulder widths on overpasses calls for 4-5-ft dependent on speed and percent of truck traffic. The 301 overpass on 291 is already a roadway that cyclist feel vulnerable on, documented in the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan 2019 .
Roadways were rated from A to F based on factors such as traffic volume, type, speed, and pavement widths. The 291 overpass was assigned a barely passing grade of D. This grade is based on the current traffic flow, with shoulder widths which are narrow, varying between 0- and 29-inches of uneven, cracked, and crumbling asphalt edges. The safety of cyclist which is already problematic will, as vehicular traffic increases and skews towards tractor-trailers, deteriorate further unless mitigation is required. The 291 overpass and the 290 underpass are the only alternatives for cyclists to avoid tangling directly with 301 traffic on at grade crossings in Kent County all of which are rated F by the state.
Kent County has a large and growing number of cyclist which the State has an interest in promoting. The county’s rural roads attract cycling clubs, races, events, and tours, as bicycle tourism is becoming a fast-growing economic factor. Cycling data compiled and published in the form of a heat map, based on users from the widely used cycling APP Strava, gives a vivid picture of where bicycles travel. The 291 overpass, the roundabouts and Howard Johnson Rd show up as the most heavily traversed roads in the county, with Edge and Chesterville Bridge Rd used to a lesser degree.
Kevin Shearon in his presentation of the warehouse plans repeatedly told the Planning Commission that the project complied with “by right” principles of Kent County’s Land Use Ordinance (LUO). However, the LUO gives no one permission “by right” to jeopardize the life of cyclists and pedestrians. Kent County cycling residents and tourists should not face deteriorating road conditions caused by development.
State Highway, the Kent County Planning Commission and Commissioners must seriously consider the safety everyone including vulnerable cyclist and pedestrians by ensuring their protection from injury or death on the county and state roads through proper mitigations and upgrades before development is approved.
For concerns about the road conditions for cyclists in Kent County contact Nate Evans, Active Transportation Planner, MDOT, nevans1mdot.maryland.gov
For information/concerns about this project contact Mr. William Mackey, Director of Planning, Zoning and Housing email@example.com