Frankford seeks intersection safety help from State

A recent fatal accident at a Frankford intersection has spurred the Town to seek help from state officials to make the spot safer.

Bruce Eckerd Jr. died Sept. 26 when he was driving westbound on Daisey Street at the intersection with Route 113 and pulled into the path of a pickup truck that was northbound on the highway.

Eckerd’s death was the latest in a series of serious crashes at the intersection. At special meeting of the Frankford Town Council on Tuesday, Oct. 8, Council President Joanne Bacon recalled at the start of the meeting that “we lost a whole family a few years back. Something needs to be done,” Bacon said, to make the intersection safer. Three people in one family died there in one accident in 2008.

About a dozen residents attended the meeting, along with state Rep. Rich Collins and Kerry Yost, statewide traffic projects manager for the Delaware Department of Transportation. Bacon noted that representatives of Mountaire, which owns a feed facility at the intersection, were invited to the meeting but no one from the company was in attendance.

Mountaire did not respond to a request for comment by the Coastal Point’s press time.

Collins noted that the town is essentially divided by Route 113, and that DelDOT, “all up and down Route 113, is closing one crossover after another because of the very thing you’re concerned about.”

“It just could be, you’re going to have to make a decision at some point — maybe now — do we want to close that off altogether?”

Yost predicted that would be met with opposition.

“If we proposed full closure, Mountaire is going to throw up a fit,” he said. Even partial closure, Yost said, might adversely affect future development in the area.

The intersection doesn’t make the top 30 problem areas in the state, Yost said, noting that it is ranked around number 150 in DelDOT’s Hazard Elimination Program, which ranks about 3,000 intersections across the state.

He also said the intersection’s approximately 100 vehicle trips per hour (as of 2018) don’t reach the DelDOT threshold for a traffic signal, which is about 400 to 500 trips per hour.

Frankford Volunteer Fire Company Chief John Wright said the intersection is “by far the most dangerous” spot in town, as far as serious traffic accidents in recent years.

Wright said he believes most of the accidents there happen because drivers on Daisey don’t see the stop signs on Daisey Street, instead focusing on the stop sign across two lanes of Route 113 in the median. Yost said he hadn’t considered that as a cause, adding that the existing sign alerting Daisey Street traffic to the upcoming intersection is too far back and that drivers could well “forget” about it by the time they reach the actual intersection.

He suggested the Town and DelDOT consider some type of blinking light on the south side of the intersection at Route 113 as a way to warn drivers to be aware of the potential for crossing traffic. He also suggested rumble strips on Daisey Street.

Yost said rumble strips are problematic because of the noise they generate for nearby homes, and lights are expensive and take years to implement.

Council Member Skip Ash suggested the Town consider requesting the speed limit on Route 113 be lowered to 45 mph, as it has been on the section of the highway that runs through Dagsboro. Wright said, however, that he does not believe speed is a particular issue in most of the serious crashes.

Ash also suggested adding flashing signals near the intersection that are activated when vehicles are approaching from the side, such as those installed on Route 17 near Roxana in the past year. Yost said those signals are still considered experimental, but that they are “being viewed as being successful” by DelDOT at this point.

Collins suggested adding flashing speed limit signs and moving stop notification signs closer to the intersection as quick ways to increase awareness of the dangerous intersection.

“These are things we could get done in the next two to three months,” Collins said.

“The Town of Frankford doesn’t ask for much,” Bacon said. “We’re just trying to save lives.” She said town officials plan to meet with Mountaire representatives in the next week about the impact of the company’s trucks on traffic in the town, and that safety issues will be at the forefront of their discussion.

By Kerin Magill
Staff Reporter