This 2004 photo shows the southbound Newport Freeway (DE 141) approaching EXIT 5 (DE 62 / Boxwood Road) in Newport. (Photo by Alex Nitzman, www.aaroads.com.)
A LINK TO NEWPORT: In 1965, the Delaware State Highway Department announced plans for a new freeway along the DE 141 corridor. The Newport Freeway was to connect the Delaware Turnpike (I-95) in Newport with a proposed US 202 Freeway in Wilmington, providing a bypass for Pennsylvania-bound traffic around the downtowns of Wilmington and Newport. To the south of I-95, the DE 141 Freeway was to provide access to New Castle Airport and Dupont Highway (US 13 and US 40). Work began on the four-lane freeway in 1971, and was completed eight years later.
Beginning at Hogswamp Road in New Castle, DE 141 transitions immediately from Basin Road (a four-lane divided arterial) to the Newport Freeway, although there is a modified cloverleaf at EXIT 1 (US 13 and US 40) about one and one-half miles to the south of the freeway's terminus. This section of DE 141 - from US 13 / US 40 north to I-95 - has been co-designated with US 202 since 1984, when US 202 was extended south from Wilmington to New Castle.
The two carriageways of DE 141 separate as the Newport Freeway approaches EXIT 3 (I-95 / Delaware Turnpike). This exit, which is part of the massive interchange between DE 141, I-95, I-295 and I-495, includes several left-hand exit ramps due to right-of-way constraints. The US 202 designation leaves DE 141 at this exit.
As DE 141 traverses the heart of Newport, it does so through a mix of below-grade and viaduct sections. While the controlled-access highway has relieved congestion on Newport Gap Pike (DE 41), it did so at the cost of displaced homes and businesses. Newport Gap Pike now serves as a pair of one-way service roads along this stretch of the Newport Freeway.
Perhaps owing to the bitter sentiments generated by its construction through Newport, the freeway ends abruptly just north of EXIT 6 (DE 2 / Kirkwood Highway). Roadway stubs at this exit reveal the ambitions of highway planners past.
Between 1997 and 2001, the Newport Freeway underwent extensive rehabilitation. This project included replacing the deteriorating concrete surface with a longer-lasting one, rebuilding the bridges over I-95, and installing new signs (though many of these signs were done to the original 1979 specs).
According to the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), the Newport Freeway carries approximately 75,000 vehicles per day (AADT) in the area of EXIT 3 (I-95), and about 45,000 vehicles per day near its northern terminus. The speed limit is 50 MPH along the entire length of the freeway.
PLANNED AS A NORTHWEST BYPASS OF WILMINGTON: During the past four decades, state officials have proposed extending the Newport Freeway to meet US 202 (Concord Pike) north of downtown Wilmington. As recently as the early 1990's, the extended DE 141 Freeway was included in the state's 20-year transportation plan. It featured a four-lane freeway from DE 2 north to US 202, and a new six-lane span over Brandywine Creek.
The "missing link" north between DE 2 (Kirkwood Highway) and DE 52 (Kennett Pike) was to have connected to the existing short four-lane divided section with a grade-separated, modified cloverleaf interchange at DE 52. However, it likely would have required the condemnation of homes along Centre Road, a four-lane undivided road cutting through a residential area northwest of Wilmington. Moreover, the 35 MPH speed limit on this section of DE 141 discourages through traffic.
IMPROVEMENTS AT BRANDYWINE CREEK… While it has abandoned plans for a freeway loop, DelDOT is addressing chronic congestion through area of Brandywine Creek. Just beyond DE 100 (Montchanin Road), DE 141 narrows from four to two lanes as it approaches the Tyler McConnell Bridge, a multiple-span girder bridge that was built in 1952, and was the first bridge in Delaware to be built with "hammerhead" concrete piers. Approximately 40,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day, creating bottlenecks on both sides of the span. Despite the historical significance of the bridge, officials do not believe that it merits preservation.
In public hearings held during 2002 and 2003, DelDOT advanced a proposal for a four-lane, multiple-arch span to replace the existing two-lane Tyler McConnell Bridge. The "context-sensitive" design features stone-covered piers and parapets (using local stone), and cream-colored arches that blend into the surroundings. The new four-lane approaches include a new grade-separated interchange at DE 100. Plans for another interchange at Alapocas Drive had been dropped during the study phase.
The $44 million project originally was scheduled to begin in 2006, but the most recent six-year DelDOT capital plan did not include any funds for the reconstruction of DE 141.
… AND THROUGH THE BLUE BALL PROPERTY: Between 1992 and 1997, DE 141 was realigned and widened from the Tyler McConnell Bridge north to US 202. This improvement was followed shortly thereafter by the completion of a grade separation at Rockland Road, and a new four-lane route ("Spur 141") connecting DE 141 with Foulk Road (DE 261) and US 202 to the southeast. There also is a pedestrian bridge connecting the north and south campuses of Astra Zeneca, which relocated its U.S. headquarters to the former Blue Ball Diary site in 1999.
This 2004 photo shows the southbound Newport Freeway (DE 141) at EXIT 6 (DE 2 / Kirkwood Highway) northwest of Wilmington. Note the stub on the right that was to be used as a northbound collector-distributor (C/D) road. (Photo by Alex Nitzman.)
SOURCES: "Wilmington Bypass Planned," The New York Times (9/12/1965); "Delaware 141 Project Stalls Traffic" by Prashant Gopal, The Wilmington News-Journal (3/28/2000); "McConnell Project Gets Official Go-Ahead," Delaforum (2/14/2002); "Draft FY 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Program," Delaware Department of Transportation (2006); "All Delaware Roads Lead to… This?" by Summer Harlow, The Wilmington News-Journal (2/25/2007); Blue Ball Properties; Rummel, Klepper and Kahl; Alex Nitzman.
DE 141 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.