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The Guide to U.S. Highway 301 in Delaware

U.S. 301 provides an important trucking route between the New York and Philadelphia to Washington and points south in addition to serving Eastern Shore and Delaware area residents. The route begins its short trek in Delaware after crossing the state line from Maryland south of Middletown. Originally U.S. 301 followed Broad Street (Delaware 71) in Middletown itself. A early 1990s opened bypass now carries the US highway west of downtown. U.S. 301 reduces to two lanes between Middletown and Mt. Pleasant after a brief four-lane section near Delaware 15 & 299. From Mt. Pleasant northward U.S. 301 & Delaware 71 join Delaware 896 to cross the four-lane Summit Bridge. Delaware 71 departs from just north of the bridge for Red Lion. U.S. 301 & Delaware 896 continue along a four-lane divided highway to the northern terminus of the federal route at junction U.S. 40 (Pulaski Highway) in Glasgow.

U.S. 301 History

The original U.S. 301 followed present Maryland 3 northward to Baltimore from the current U.S. 50 & 301 junction near Bowie, Maryland. There the US highway ended at U.S. 1 and 40 in downtown. The Eastern Shore alignment of U.S. 301 at the time was a part of Maryland 71. The Maryland 71 designation is where Delaware 71 emanates. When the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was constructed, U.S. 301 saw relocation along the Maryland 71 route to Delaware. At Middletown U.S. 301 joins Delaware 299 and Delaware 71. Delaware 896 once traveled the path of Delaware 71 from U.S. 13 northward to Middletown. The state route now turns eastward from Mt. Pleasant to junction U.S. 13 at Boyd's Corner. Until 1993 U.S. 301 followed the Delaware 896 routing from Mt. Pleasant eastward to U.S. 13. From there U.S. 13 & 301 overlapped northward along the Dupont Highway to the Interstate 295 & U.S. 40 interchange at Farnhurst.

Photo taken by Michael Summa (1976)

Before the 1993 opening of the Delaware 896 bypass of Glasgow, the state route bisected the village on a two lane alignment known as Glasgow Avenue. When this was the case, U.S. 301 traveled northward along Delaware 896 from Summit Bridge to U.S. 40 at Glasgow. At U.S. 40 (Pulaski Highway) the federal route turned east to the State Road merge of U.S. 13 & 40 (Dupont Highway). Pictured here is a 1976 photograph by Michael Summa revealing the shield assembly of U.S. 301 & Delaware 896 northbound at the Pulaski Highway in central Glasgow.

Some controversy surrounds the past of U.S. 301 as well. Residents along the Eastern Shore of Maryland remained staunch in opposition to the proposed upgrading of the highway to full limited access standards. These Marylanders refused to accept U.S. 301 as the unofficial bypass of the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area. Around 1990 a new interchange opened at Maryland 290 along the U.S. 301 corridor. Some locals saw the project and the interchange construction at Maryland 213 near U.S. 50 as low key plans to upgrade the US highway to a freeway. However the state of Maryland officially dropped plans for the upgrading of U.S. 301 into an Interstate Highway in 1992.1 Instead The Maryland State Highway Administration opted for developmental controls and other methods of access control. Additionally U.S. 301 in Maryland sees a 65 MPH speed limit and a ban on bicycles.

Upon entering the Diamond State U.S. 301 quickly reduces from a wide four lane highway to a two-lane roadway. The US highway quickly adds Delaware 15 & 299 on the short stretch between the Maryland line and the city of Middletown. In Middletown a short stretch of U.S. 301 features a concrete median and passing lanes. Otherwise the US highway remains with two overall lanes northward to Mt. Pleasant. Since U.S. 301 constitutes a major trucking route, rumble strips are in place along the two-lane segments to reduce the threat of potential head-on collisions on this stretch.

At Mt. Pleasant Delaware 896 joins the U.S. 301 & Delaware 71 fold. The three highways progress northward from there toward the village of Summit Bridge and the 1960-opened crossing by the same name over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Bridge. The three-way overlap features a widening of the road from two to four lanes. The approaches to the Summit Bridge itself result in a 1.5-mile segment of freeway for U.S. 301 & Delaware 71-896. An overpass resides on the north approach to the bridge for Chesapeake City Road.

Delaware 71 departs U.S. 301 for Lums Pond State Park, the Delaware War Veterans Cemetery, and the village of Red Lion north of the Summit Bridge. U.S. 301 & Delaware 896 continue northward along four-lane divided highway to the village of Glasgow. The concrete roadway saw completion between 1990 and 1993 between Delaware 71 and U.S. 40. The 1993 opened Glasgow bypass features the northern terminus of U.S. 301 at U.S. 40 (Pulaski Highway) just east of Glasgow itself. From there Delaware 896 continues northward to Interstate 95 (Exit 1) and the city of Newark. The state route was widening to four lanes between 1994 and 1996 and features some access control. Original Delaware 896 through Glasgow exists as Delaware 896. Further north at Iron Hill another stretch of old Delaware 896 remains in use as a frontage road.

The U.S. 301 Freeway

Controversial and abandoned plans dating back to the 1960s called for a U.S. 301 freeway between the Maryland state line and Interstate 95. The potential alignments varied over the years around Middletown and Glasgow and across the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. By 1992, options consisted of upgrading Delaware 896 to a freeway, building a new alignment west of Middletown along the ridge that separates the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay watersheds (known as the "Ridge Route"), and a new alignment northeast from Glasgow to the unbuilt Exit 2 of the Delaware Turnpike. By 1992, DelDOT already purchased lands at the U.S. 40 & Delaware 896 junction east of Glasgow for a proposed interchange.1

Corridors considered for U.S. 301 until 19921:

  1. Upgrade of the existing Delaware 896 corridor to a freeway
  2. New alignment from Middletown to the SR 1 Turnpike
  3. New freeway west of Middletown to Summit Bridge (the Ridge Alternate) and two corridors northeast from Glasgow to Interstate 95
  4. New freeway near the Delaware/Maryland state line west of Middletown and Glasgow that utilizes the existing Summit Bridge - dropped in 1992
  5. Freeway bypass east of Middletown - dropped in 1992

Proposals for new alignments along the Maryland state line were deemed too detrimental to the wetlands through the area and also required too many stream crossings. The Middletown eastern bypass alternative was dropped due to the impact of important agricultural areas.1 The remaining proposals remained unpopular with the exception of the Delaware 896 widening as an at-grade facility. The bypass of Glasgow was another such defeat as it was also intended to provide limited-access and a full interchange at U.S. 40. A compromise was made to build the bypass as a four-lane expressway with controlled access. Deldot still owns Right of Way land adjacent to the U.S. 40 and U.S. 301 & Delaware 896 intersection. The land is now under development as a new state park.

In 1994, DelDot again discussed ideas on how to handle the growing traffic demands along U.S. 301 between the Maryland state line and Interstate 95. Of the options touted, a new 300-foot wide corridor between 15 to 19 miles, widening of the existing highway, and the addition of interchanges to existing Delaware 896 were considered. The price tag at the time included $200 million from property acquisition, environmental studies, and highway construction.2 Officials in Dover could not reach an agreement on what to do about U.S. 301 in 1994, and all plans were subsequently dropped from consideration.3

New corridors considered in the 1994 plan:2

  1. Northeasterly routes from U.S. 40 at Glasgow across Delaware 72 to Interstate 95
  2. Route west of Summit Airport
  3. "Ridge Alternate" to the west of Summit Bridge and Middletown

The section of Delaware 896 between U.S. 40 (Pulaski Highway) and Interstate 95 was planned as a full freeway until 1994. Opposition again surmounted as residents in and around Iron Hill (elevation 380 feet) expressed concern in that a Delaware 896 freeway would take too much real estate for a planned interchange at Old Baltimore Pike. DelDOT went ahead with the widening of the two-lane Delaware 896 as a four-lane divided expressway. Several traffic signals exist along the route including those at Old Baltimore Pike, Four Seasons Parkway, and Corporate Boulevard.

Other U.S. 301 proposals included the potential for a new toll plaza at the state line. DelDOT contended that extra revenue for the operating budget was needed as a vote for a gas tax increase in 1996 failed. So creating a toll barrier at the state line was one of the ideas touted by the state to generate additional funds. The department of transportation also contends that a toll plaza may decrease the truck traffic using U.S. 301 as a Baltimore bypass. Nothing ever came of this proposal and it is unlikely that tolls on the existing U.S. 301 will become reality.

By 1998, expansion plans for U.S. 301 were again on the books after a several-year absence. New considerations included an expanded U.S. 301 with HOV-dedicated lanes, increased bus service to the Middletown and planned Whitehall, and the creation of two commuter light rail lines. The list of seven options considered in 1998 include:

  1. New six-lane expressway for U.S. 301 from Maryland to Interstate 95
  2. Create rail lines between Middletown and Wilmington, and Newark to Wilmington by way of Bear
  3. New HOV-only lanes on Interstate 95, Delaware 1, and Delaware 896 between U.S. 40 and Interstate 95
  4. Widen existing U.S. 301 and Delaware 1
  5. Construct a no-exit express road from U.S. 301 at Middletown to Delaware 1

Toll road options in 1998 were not considered. The six-lane freeway option garnered a price tag of $205-million.3 A follow up to the April 1998 meeting occurred in August with the 1994 plan for a new freeway garnering the most support. Other options reviewed included "smart traffic" solutions such as traffic signal coordination and other traffic control and the improvement of pedestrian and bicycle access. The HOV project received the least amount of public support.4

The U.S. 301 Toll Road

DelDOT again has U.S. 301 improvements on the drawing board as of 2005. Ideas on the table involve the construction of a new U.S. 301 highway along the "Ridge Alternate" previously discussed in 1992 and 1994, and the creation of a new freeway connector between U.S. 301 at Mount Pleasant east to Delaware 1 near Boyds Corner. Construction is expected to take two and a half years to complete pending environmental impact statement approval by the FHWA and funding availability.

The "Green Alternative" was selected as the most preferable corridor for the new U.S. 301 toll road around Middletown. Entailing a limited-access freeway, U.S. 301 will travel a new alignment west of Middletown and cross existing U.S. 301 on a northeasterly trajectory to Delaware 896 east of Mount Pleasant and the SR 1 Turnpike north of the Biddles Toll Plaza and south of the Canal Bridge. A limited access Super Two spur route will travel along the Ridge line northward from new U.S. 301 to the south end of the Summit Bridge at junction Delaware 15, 71, and 896. Expected to cost $590-million, the project could be completed in ten years depending upon funding availability and the current DelDOT budget crisis.5 See Deldot's U.S. Route 301 Project Development website for additional information and updates.

TRUCK

U.S. 301 Truck was commissioned in the 1980s to reroute truck traffic away from the St. Georges Bridge over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. During that time period U.S. 301 and U.S. 13 traveled the Dupont Highway between Boyd's Corner and Farnhurst. During the mid 1980s structural defaults were discovered on the 1942-opened span and weight restrictions were levied upon the crossing. Initially signed as a U.S. 13 truck detour, the alignment later became the more permanent U.S. 301 Truck route.

U.S. 301 Truck followed Delaware 71 & 896 northward across the Summit Bridge from Mt. Pleasant. At Glasgow the truck route turned eastward from Delaware 896 onto U.S. 40 (Pulaski Highway). From there U.S. 40 & U.S. 301 Truck merged with U.S. 13 & 301 (Dupont Highway) at State Road. U.S. 301 Truck signs remained in place until 2001 and still remain at the U.S. 13 southbound U.S. 40 westbound split.

Maps display a U.S. 301 split between suffixed routes through to the mid-1980s. There were a few variations of the split alignment of U.S. 301. U.S. 301N followed Delaware 896 between Mt. Pleasant and Boyd's Corner and U.S. 13 from Boyd's Corner northward to State Road. U.S. 301S traveled Delaware 71 southbound through Red Lion to Summit Bridge and Delaware 71 & 896 from Summit Bridge to Mt. Pleasant. A later U.S. 301N used Delaware 896 northward from Mt. Pleasant to Glasgow and U.S. 40 eastward from Glasgow to State Road.

Rahul forwarded us an email from a DelDOT community relations officer regarding the suffixed versions of U.S. 301 and its relocation to Delaware 896 between Mt. Pleasant and Glasgow on June 2, 2000:

Approved in Oct. 1992 and available to traffic on 1/1/93, U.S. 301 was relocated to go from Mt. Pleasant to U.S. 40 (it ends at route 40) because of the completion of a four-lane section here in the fall of '92. This facilitated travel time from Mt. Pleasant to the Interstate 95 main line south of Newark.
As a side note: before July 1983, U.S. 301N went over Summit Bridge and at Glasgow went north on U.S. 40. U.S. 301S went south on U.S. 13 from State Road, turned through Red Lion and went on to Summit Bridge. On July 7, 1983 the U.S. 301N and U.S. 301S was dropped and U.S. 301 now went from Mt. Pleasant east to U.S. 13, then north to State Road.

The subject was discussed on misc.transport.road in a post by John Taber on January 17, 2002:

...If they were 301-E and 301-W, it wouldn't be so weird. What's weird is that they apparently routed northbound U.S. 301 and southbound U.S. 301 onto two different roads, even though the roads aren't one-way.

Why didn't northbound and southbound U.S. 301 just use the same road?

Because both used narrow two-lanes for most of their length. I think the original idea was to get that traffic off of U.S. 13 (when it wasn't that wide either), but not to overburden any one road. They moved the whole thing over to U.S. 13 around 1984 or 1985 - it now (sort of) follows the former "north" route which has since been widened. The signs for where 301 south split off from 13 south looked to be from the 1940s or 1950s - they were still up for a little while after the change was made.

No, if you went the other direction there wouldn't be signs saying "To South 301". In fact, most of the time if you approached it from another highway the junction signs would only refer to the other route the road carried - Delaware 896 or U.S. 40 for 301N, Delaware 71 or US 13 for 301S - but once you turned onto 301 there would be a trailblazer that included it.

U.S. 301 Delaware Mileage: 15.10

U.S. 301 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)

County Begin Milepost From: To: 2002 AADT Composite 2003 AADT Composite % Change
New Castle0.00MD state lineDelaware 29917,39817,5060.6
New Castle1.01Delaware 299Delaware 1514,39914,4390.3
New Castle3.62Delaware 15Peterson Road10,49712,97423.6
New Castle4.05Peterson RoadDelaware 896 Mount Pleasant Road 22,47222,6120.6
New Castle7.45Delaware 896 Mount Pleasant RoadRoad 43322,36022,281-0.4
New Castle9.62Road 433Delaware 7134,19427,690-19.0
New Castle11.69Delaware 71U.S. 40 Glasgow (15.10)27,21327,3820.6
Source: Traffic Summary 2002 (DelDOT), Traffic Summary 2003 (DelDOT)

U.S. 301 Delaware Highway Guide

Sources:

  1. "U.S. 301 planners cull options." The News Journal (DE), December 3, 1992.
  2. "Deadline nears for U.S. 301 plan." The News Journal (DE), October 16, 1994.
  3. "Big plans in store for U.S. 301." The News Journal (DE), April 29, 1998.
  4. "Road options are all over the map." The News Journal (DE), August 30, 1998.
  5. "DelDOT picks U.S. 301 bypass route." The News Journal (DE), November 14, 2006.

U.S. 301 Delaware Other Highway Sites

Page Updated July 22, 2007.

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