The Road to the Ferry: Lewes
Which Road Should I Take to the Ferry in Lewes?
As with most destinations in life, there are a few ways to get where you're going, and that's also true for the Ferry terminal in Lewes, Delaware. You can go through the town of Lewes, but you can also by-pass the town and get to the Ferry via Freeman Highway, a route that is a bit different from standard state roads, and has an interesting history. And, as with most things related to the Delaware River & Bay Authority, the operating Authority for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, the history has both aviation and maritime overtones with a touch of bridging the past to the present.
How Did the Highway Get It's Name?
Freeman Highway is named after Theodore "Ted" Freeman, an aeronautical engineer, USAF test pilot, and NASA astronaut. Captain Theodore Freeman grew up in Lewes, Delaware to a family of farmers and carpenters. He worked part-time at local air fields refueling planes and doing maintenance to earn pocket money, which he largely spent taking plane rides and on flying lessons. Once he gained his pilot's license at age 16, he used his entrepreneurial skills to help commercial fishermen by spotting fish for them from the air. By the time Freeman graduated high school he had applied to the US Naval Academy.
For More on Ted Freeman: The Man Behind The Highway
Captain Freeman died in an aviation accident in 1964, the same year the Ferry began operations. Almost immediately, the Ferry Access road being built by the DRBA was slated to become Freeman Highway in honor of the local hero. On December 21, 1965, the Delaware State Senate formalized the name by resolution and Freeman Highway opened as a Delaware extension of Rt. 9 in 1966. An historical plaque is located at the corner of the Lewes Terminal and was dedicated to Ted Freeman on June 18, 2014 as part of the 50th anniversary of the Ferry.
Related Story: The Road to the Ferry: Cape May
Who Handles Road Maintenance?
Similar to how the DRBA maintains the Ferry approach roads in Cape May, the Authority has responsibility for Freeman Highway operations, which represent approximately 1.5 miles of roadway. By agreement with local officials, the DRBA built the two-lane road in 1964 as a by-pass to alleviate potential traffic clogs through the center of Lewes. Today, Freeman Highway remains a DRBA road maintained by the Ferry and the DRBA and not the Delaware Dept. of Transportation, like most of the surrounding roadways.
The lanes were originally constructed in concrete and the highway still has a concrete base now sealed with an asphalt top that effectively extended the initial 50-year life of the concrete. Although the asphalt helped protect the concrete bed underneath, it had a life expectancy of 20 years, and is now due for an upgrade. Since asphalt is weather sensitive, the work is ideally done in warmer weather months and is expected to begin on March 27 and be completed in two months -- or mid-May -- in time for the launch of the Summer 2022 travel season on Memorial Day Weekend.
To update the road, DRBA engineering teams and contractors will mill down 3 inches of asphalt and patching concrete as needed. "Our goal is to minimize lane closures," commented DRBA Project Engineer Brent Van Lith. Van Lith noted that most of the work will be done at night or at hours that have little impact on Ferry traffic.
"Unlike standard road projects, we take Ferry traffic into account," Van Lith added. Freeman Highway was created specifically as a Ferry Access road, although today, it is also used by many other travelers between Cape Henlopen State Park, beach homes and King's Highway. The full project is estimated to cost the DRBA $1,077,777.