Delaware leaders say 2020 will see the completion of two projects that have been years in the making: the addition of a left-turn lane along most of East William Street and a revision of the city's comprehensive plan.

The city started working on the East William project in 2016 and began construction in June to widen the street and add a new center left-turn lane from Lake Street to Foley Street.

Work to revise the comprehensive plan -- called Delaware Together -- began in 2018.

"Both projects will have a lasting impact on the city," said city spokesman Lee Yoakum. "Delaware Together establishes a short- and long-term vision for the community, and the East William work will reduce daily congestion, delay and associated traffic accidents.

"The significance of the comprehensive-plan update cannot be overemphasized," he said.

The plan last was updated in 2004 and was expected to be valid for 10 years, but it has guided the city since then, he said.

Leaders use the plan, he said, to guide decisions on a variety of long-term issues the city faces.

The plan's revision is expected to revisit some of the topics of the 2004 plan. Yoakum said those included managing growth, maintaining the community's character, expanding transportation options, offering housing for all residents and environmental conservation.

City planning director David Efland said the city sought resident volunteers to work on the plan's revision, selecting 30 people from a group of 90 applicants to serve on a steering committee.

"The comprehensive plan reflects current trends and priorities but is focused on the future," Efland said.

Another goal of the comprehensive plan, said City Manager Tom Homan, is helping the business community understand how the city plans to accommodate future growth.

The steering committee has met several times, with a number of opportunities for public input. A final round of public input is anticipated before the plan's completion, Yoakum said.

Housing was a topic at a recent steering committee meeting.

"As the city continues to be a very attractive place to live and attracting businesses remains a top priority, housing has emerged as a major focus for the new comprehensive plan," Yoakum said.

The public and city have identified a need for diverse housing opportunities, including workforce housing, he said. Another priority is expanding mixed-use areas -- neighborhoods that integrate residential and retail -- and promoting long-term sustainability.

Factors considered by the steering committee, Yoakum said, have included rising demand for smaller homes with smaller lots; demand for housing in mixed-use developments; how housing for local workers can impact the city's ability to attract new businesses; a desire for varied housing styles as opposed to stand-alone subdivisions; and a housing affordability gap in the city.

The steering committee also has discussed ideas for recommendations regarding transportation, public amenities, open space and recreation, and community facilities and services, he said. That could include a reconfiguration of the city's riverfront area and east gateway, he said.

Another topic for the committee is a draft land-use plan. Housing, land use and other recommendations will be reviewed at public meetings after the committee has refined alternatives, Yoakum said.

The East William Street project is designed to separate vehicles making left turns from through traffic, he said.

"This will reduce congestion and accidents and increase safety for the 20,000 vehicles that travel the street daily." he said.

Most of the work so far has been on the south side of the street.

Crews still need to put down a primary asphalt surface and complete sidewalks, Yoakum said. Side-street approaches have been rebuilt with a concrete base at Cheshire, Anne and Kurrley streets.

The bicycle-path bridge over the intersection of Lake and William streets has been removed, and the crossroads is being reconfigured to improve visibility and ease of turning for large trucks, he said.

Widening along the north side of East William will begin in the spring. The final phase -- installation of new streetlights and traffic signals -- is expected in June.

The bulk of the $6.4 million project is funded by state and federal grants. The city is responsible for $1.1 million of that total cost, he said.

Homan said the widening project is a first step toward bigger things to come.

A long-term goal is to ease congestion at the Point intersection of East Central Avenue and East William Street, where multiple lanes of traffic narrow to two lanes to pass under a railroad bridge, Homan said.

The city hopes to widen the roadway under the bridge to four lanes, with work starting in 2021 or 2022.

For more information on the comprehensive plan, go to delawaretogether.net/news.

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