Edward L. Cairns is a longtime resident of the greater Elkton, Maryland, and Newark, Delaware, area. He has been involved in regional highway planning and local environmental issues as a citizen activist since the early 1970s. Cairns served seven years as a Cecil County representative on the Wilmington Area Planning Council (WILMAPCO) regional council, advising on transportation issues in New Castle County, Delaware, and Cecil County, Maryland. Cairns also served a term as president of the Christine Manor Civic Association in the 1970s, at which time he provided testimony in two civil cases regarding the Christine Manor right-of-way.
The Christine Manor community is located on the northwest side of Newark, Delaware, just south of Route 273. The Christine Manor right-of-way civil suits relate to the original planning of the proposed, much discussed, but never materialized Newark Beltway. A portion of the Beltway plan had it passing through the yards of several Christine Manor residents. These residents filed suits in the mid-1970s in the Court of the Chancery of the State of Delaware (civil action 4584) and in the United States District Court (civil action 4499) to force a ruling on the State's right-of-way intended for the Beltway's location.
The Newark Beltway initially was proposed in the late 1960s to deal with growing traffic problems in town. It would have routed traffic coming and going from Cecil County in the west around the center of the town of Newark. Plans varied, but it would have originally run from Route 273 northeast of town, to the southeast, and then on to the southwest. At some point, after the courts ruled in the favor of the residents of Christine Manor, it was determined that Delaware lacked the land west of Newark to accommodate the Beltway; and that sections of Cecil County, Maryland, would be a suitable alternative. Route 4, or the Christiana Parkway, is the partial realization of the southern segment of the Beltway. In spite of strong public support, the rest of the Beltway was never built due to lack of land right-of-ways, and lack of interest from Cecil County and the State of Maryland. WILMAPCO's Regional Transportations Plans created some solutions to Newark's traffic woes, but these problems require constant rethinking. The Casho Mill CSX underpass located on the west side of Newark on Casho Mill Road has been a long-time problem for the city. Presently and historically, the road narrows leaving room for only one vehicle headed in either direction. In the late 1990s, the Delaware Department of Transportation held public comment periods to suggest ideas to resolve the traffic and pedestrian problems created by the underpass. There were multiple car accidents and at least one pedestrian death just when the debate on what to do with the underpass was heating up. The final plans for the underpass included a separate pedestrian walkway. The problem of the road narrowing was never resolved.
The Edward Cairns papers, dating from 1973 to 2000, contain correspondence, briefs, meeting agenda, minutes, reports, maps, and news clippings related to traffic patterns and growth concerns for the region of Newark, Delaware, and Elkton, Maryland. The contents reflect Cairns' involvement in addressing these concerns; they also reveal community opinion as reflected through media (newspaper) coverage, public hearings, and court testimony. The traffic troubles of greater Newark contained within this collection have sparked colorful public debate. The Edward Cairns papers provide a brief look at some of the past land use and development debate as tracked by one concerned citizen. In particular, the folders labeled Newark Beltway document political advertising and spirited newspaper op-ed exchanges.