Delaware Road Network

By | October 13, 2022

Delaware has a dense road network that has been developed fairly adequately. In addition to the Interstate Highways, there are also some 2×2 US Highways and state highways. The Delaware Memorial Bridge is a landmark suspension bridge spanning the Delaware River.

Road management

The state highway authority is the Delaware Department of Transportation, abbreviated DelDOT. The state controls 89% of all highways in Delaware, DelDOT manages 8,668 miles of road across 21,676 lane miles. DelDOT operates 1,599 bridges and one ferry service.

DelDOT has its origins in the Delaware State Highway Department that was established in 1917, and road management became a state responsibility. In 1935, the state took over the remaining county roads, leaving Delaware with only municipal roads and state highways. From 1936, the state highways were signposted with a number.

However, DelDOT does not control all bridges, the Delaware Memorial Bridge is under the control of the Delaware River and Bay Authority and the bridges over the Delaware & Chesapeake Canal are under the control of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

  • Bittranslators: State overview of Delaware, including geography, economy, population and history as well as introduction to major cities of Delaware.

Interstate Highways

One major route of the Interstate Highways traverses Delaware, Interstate 95 which runs through the Wilmington region. This is the connection from Baltimore to Philadelphia, but through traffic to New York City from Wilmington uses Interstate 295 over the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Interstate 495 forms an alternate route through Wilmington. I-95 is the busiest highway, especially the western portion which is a toll road and has 2×4 lanes. I-295 also has 2×4 lanes. I-95 through Wilmington has 2×2 lanes while I-495 past Wilmington has 2×3 lanes and is the best route for traffic to Philadelphia.

US Highways

A small number of US Highways cross the state. Special is the US 9 , which has a ferry service across the Atlantic Ocean from Lewes to Cape May, New Jersey. A bridge has never been built here, it is one of the few US Highways that runs via a ferry service. US 13 has historically been the main north-south route, and is equipped with a minimum of four lanes throughout the state. It is the main north-south link south of Dover. US 40 runs east-west through the north of the state and is mostly a city highway, although it piggybacks on I-295 over the Delaware Memorial Bridge. US 113 forms an alternate north-south route through southern Delaware and also has 2×2 lanes throughout. US 202 begins in New Castle and runs through Wilmington to the western suburbs of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. US 301 is a major connection to Maryland and alternate route to the Washington, DC region.

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State Highways

The state highways are called a ‘Delaware Route’, abbreviated ‘DE XX’. State Route 1 is by far the most important highway, it is a freeway and toll road from the Wilmington region to the capital Dover and in southern Delaware is a 2×2 divided highway along the coast and includes the Indian River Inlet Bridge, a large cable-stayed bridge. Other state routes are mostly secondary in character, although they handle a lot of urban traffic in northern Delaware.

The state highways have the prescribed road number shield of the MUTCD, a black shield with a white circle containing the number in black numbers. Several states use this road number shield. The road numbering is similar to that of US Highways and Interstate Highways, with even numbers running east-west and odd numbers running north-south. Some road numbers have been adapted to those of neighboring states. The number runs from DE 1 to DE 896.

Reference Routes

Each road in the administration of the state of Delaware is also administratively numbered as a maintenance road, also known as a reference route. These numbers are not communicated to the public in the media, but are indicated with small signposts at intersections. These maintenance road numbers often do not match the generally signposted number of state highways, US Highways and Interstate Highways, which can be confusing.

Toll roads

There are some toll roads in Delaware. A major source of revenue for Delaware is tolls on Interstate 95 near the Maryland border. Since 2011, there has also been 2×2 lanes with open road tolling with an E-ZPass. In addition, there is a toll on the Delaware Memorial Bridge (I-295), but only westbound. State Route 1 from Wilmington to Dover is also a toll road. The new US 301 will also become a toll road.


The first colonial era of the Dutch and Swedes was hardly accompanied by the development of a road network. It was not until the English period that roads were built. These were the so-called ‘King’s Highways’. These were simple country roads that were not paved. Most roads at that time ran inland from the coast, later the road from Lewes to Wilmington was built as a north-south route in the 18th century. Much transport at that time went by water, given the long coastline of Delaware this was not a problem. Turnpikes were built in the 19th century, better roads that were maintained via tolls. The first turnpikes ran primarily from Wilmington to the surrounding agricultural areas and Philadelphia.

In the early 20th century, the call for better roads grew louder. In 1908, T. Coleman du Pont proposed a modern north-south route through Delaware, a broad 40-foot (12-meter) wide road flanked by trolley lines and modeled after European boulevards. This DuPont Highway was then constructed as a wide two-lane road from Shelbyville in the south to Wilmington. It was the first modern road in Delaware constructed in concrete. The road was completed in stages until 1923. Later, US 13 and US 113 were routed over DuPont Highway.

In 1917, the Delaware State Highway Department was established with the task of developing a modern highway network in Delaware. He took over the DuPont Highway and built the last parts of it. The road allowed the development of southern Delaware, which had historically been isolated from the state’s more industrialized and urban north. In the 1920s, the state took over the last turnpikes and made them toll-free.

In 1926 the US Highways were introduced in Delaware, in 1936 the state highways followed. The road number plate was subsequently changed to the current road number plate in 1936, 1955, 1964 and 1971. As early as 1934, the road between Wilmington and Dover was a 2×2 divided highway. Later in the 1930s, several other roads were widened to 2×2 lanes, so that by the start of World War II, Delaware already had an extensive network of modern highways.

In 1951, the mighty Delaware Memorial Bridge, connecting Delaware to New Jersey, opened. In 1957, the last section of US 13 widened to 2×2 lanes, creating a divided highway north-south across the entire state. In 1959, the Delaware Memorial Bridge became part of I-295, the state’s first Interstate Highway. In 1963, the Delaware Turnpike, part of I-95, opened. This was somewhat unusual, as this toll road was built after the Interstate Highways system was created in 1956. It was one of the few cases in the United States where an Interstate Highway was still built as a toll road in the first decades after 1956. In 1968, I-95 was completed through Wilmington, and in 1977 the last section of I-495 opened, completing Delaware’s Interstate Highways.

Traffic over the Delaware Memorial Bridge quickly increased, making it clear shortly after opening that a second span was necessary, which opened in 1968. The two suspension bridges have become icons of Delaware. In the 1980s, plans began to be made for a highway through the middle of Delaware, State Route 1. The goal was twofold, better access to the capital Dover and a better road for recreational traffic to the beaches of southern Delaware. Construction began in 1987 and the toll road was completed in 2003. In 2012, the Indian River Inlet Bridge in southern Delaware opened to traffic.


Congestion is relatively uncommon on the freeways in Delaware, I-95 handles a great deal of through traffic, but is well developed, and the bulk of through traffic to New York City takes the New Jersey Turnpike via I-295. In Wilmington there can be some traffic jams around the center, but this is not much. The south of Delaware is very quiet, because there are no large towns or major thoroughfares here. On the weekends, there is a lot of recreational traffic along the coast of southern Delaware.

Delaware Road Network