Over the last several years, the southern tip of Middletown, Delaware has assembled an extraordinary retail experience specifically designed to attract Marylanders seeking tax-free shopping. Starting with a Walmart Supercenter and then followed by the addition of a cineplex, popular restaurants, and a half dozen national chains like Michaels, Marshalls, and Kohls, this once sleepy town had transformed itself into a major commercial zone for the Mid-Shore.
Complimenting that vision was the addition of a significant bypass for Route 301 to seamlessly connect with Delaware’s Route 1 and later Interstate 95. After years of construction, the state opened the new toll road a few months ago, saving commuters and second homeowners on the Shore close to 15 minutes in drive time to and from the Delmarva Peninsula.
That was the good news.
The bad news started immediately after the Route 301 bypass ribbon cutting. Maryland drivers noticed two things about the new traffic pattern. The first was it was impossible to access Middletown Warwick Road, where all these new stores were located, without using the new toll road. The second, with no warning, was provided about the excessive charge, for doing that. It was going to cost a driver $4.00 each way to exit Rt. 301 after only traveling less than 2 miles using EZ-Pass. It was even worse for those without it with a bill in the mail for $5.60 one way.
Perhaps Delaware’s goal was to make the history books as one of the most expensive toll roads in the United States. If that was the case, they succeeded. But in doing so, the state’s highway planners not only have angered Maryland drivers with kind of highway robbery but created the unintended consequences of severally damaging Maryland’s secondary roads like the Cecilton-Warwick Road for drivers seeking toll-avoidance routes.
And nowhere is this felt more than in the unincorporated village of Warwick where car traffic on Saturdays has risen from 20 to 30 cars per hour going through their small hamlet to up to a 1,000 or more vehicles per hour on roads never designed for this level of traffic.
While common sense would suggest that the first exit could be prorated based on the short distance involved with a simple software update for EZ-Pass toll collections, Delaware has no formal plans to make that adjustment.
One person who has been watching this closely as been Galena mayor John Carroll since the toll road was being planned some ten years ago. The Spy sat down with John in the town’s council room to talk about unfair pricing of the new highway and the incalculable damage to Maryland’s roads and the Upper Shore’s way of life.
This video is approximately five minutes in length.