SHA Plans 50 Bridge Work

OCEAN CITY – With spring approaching, it was that time of
year again for the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) to meet with the
Mayor and City Council to give an update on several issues and projects.

Present at the work session of the Mayor and City Council
Tuesday afternoon to give the update was District Engineer Donnie Drewer and
Assistant District Engineer Gene Cofiell. The two navigated a list of 16 items
covering mistimed traffic signals to the replacement of safe-hit poles.

Most of the items on the list were breezed right through.
For example, the new Jamestown Road traffic light will be completed in a couple
weeks following the running of electricity, installation of signs and
completion of landscaping.

Other quick items included the progress of installing
pedestrian countdown signals that would include audible signals for the seeing
impairing north of 15th Street, set to be done by the fall, and
other minor street repairs taking place around the resort.

However, there were a few items that required a little
more explanation and discussion. The first of which was regarding a project
aimed to replace a cable under the Route 50 Bridge.

“We have an electrical submarine cable that goes down under
the channel and comes back up into the bridge tender house and we’ve had a
temporary cable in for a while and it has been in need of replacement,” Drewer
said.

Drewer also said the gear housing that raises and lowers
the bridge is in need of repair and it will be replaced at the same time. The
project, slated to begin on Monday, is planned to last a week, however if
weather becomes a factor, it could drag out into the following week and will
affect both marine and automobile traffic.

“The bridge itself will be in the closed position, it will
not be able to be opened to marine traffic for at least a week,” Drewer said.
“Small boats are not affected, just extremely large boats. Worse case scenario
they can moor on other side of bridge for a week.”

As far as automobile traffic is concerned, the project
will occupy a single lane coming into town from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.

Another topic that came up, one many probably have never
considered, concerned the salting of Coastal Highway and the effects it has on
the survivability of the trees and other plants along the medians.

“We take as much pain as we can while we are salting, but
at the same time during the winter season if it snows we certainly have to put
salt out there,” Drewer said. “We don’t have an alternative.”

City Manager Dennis Dare said it’s not only the trees, but
also the other smaller plants used in the landscaping that are threatened,
mentioning the soil in some median areas has become so saturated with salt that
they are now being replaced.

Cofiell only replied, “If it’s an ice storm they don’t
have a choice. Safety first.”

The last topic drawing the most discussion concerned a
letter written by a local resident about the blinking traffic light located on
131st Street. The letter pointed out the fact there are three
left-turn lanes north of 94th Street without a traffic signal that
are heavily used.

The light, known as the William Donald Schaefer light, was
a favor to the owner of JR’s Ribs from long-time state governor, mayor and
comptroller William Schaefer.

 “I think it could
be at best a flashing light, even better, removed. I just don’t see any purpose
for it,” Councilman Jay Hancock said.

Cofiell, seeing how many others were on board with the
idea, said he would like to assess the light this summer.

“I’d like to recommend we put it on flash for this
upcoming season and we’ll evaluate it during this summer,” he said. “If it
doesn’t meet up to any of our traffic signal warrants, we’ll remove it
permanently in the fall.”

One concern with the removal of the light, brought up by
Councilman Lloyd Martin, was that the light has been there for so long and
removal may make things awkward for some.

“The big thing is, when you got a cut in the highway and
its still there you got to do a lot of reconstruction to take the light down,”
he said. “You have to take into consideration that it has been there for years
and just taking it away can make a big traffic hazard down the road somewhere
else.”

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas was more worried with the use
of the intersection by pedestrians since there is no crosswalk, no signals and
not enough space in the median to stand or wait for oncoming vehicles.

Last to weigh in was Mayor Rick Meehan who wanted to know
more on the history of the intersection.

“I would like to know if we’ve had accidents at that
location in the past, I think that’s a good request,” he said. “We don’t want
to make a decision based on somebody who says there were accidents and then
find out there weren’t any.”

With it decided the intersection would be given one more
season to prove its worth, Hancock went on to address issues with other traffic
lights, mainly two in West Ocean City where the timing was cause for concern.

According
to Hancock, the left turn lanes for Golf Course Road and Keiser Point Road are
short timing people in the queue, causing some to run a red light and others to
wait longer. Cofiell acknowledged the two lanes and said they would be looked
into as well. 

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