Route 50 Bridge Workshops Planned In Ocean City

Bridge

WEST
OCEAN CITY – State Highway Administration (SHA) officials have planned three
public workshops next week on the five remaining alternatives for the future of
the Route 50 Bridge.

The
workshops will be held on May 31 (6-8 p.m.) and June 1 (9-11 a.m., and 1-3
p.m.) at the Ocean City Convention Center, Room 217.

“We
urge people to come to this meeting, to look at the options and let us know
what they think,” said Charlie Gischlar, an SHA spokesperson.

SHA
Project Manager Sue Rajan added, “Nothing now is set in concrete. That input
will be helpful.”

The
bridge, built in 1942 and eligible to be put on the National Register of
Historic Places, has 15 to 40 years of useful life left, depending on what
repairs are made.

Construction
on a new bridge will not begin for at least a decade, and perhaps longer, Rajan
said.

“At
this time the project is only funded for the planning phase,” she said

Of
the five options, only three would entail major construction. The first option
is to make minor improvements only, while the second option is rehabilitation
of the current bridge, including expanded sidewalks, changes to lighting and
the addition of archways.

Alternatives
4, 5, and 5a are the build options remaining from the first round. All would
cost substantial sums of money and would involve taking private property.
Environmental impacts should be minor, however.

The
most expensive option, the fixed span bridge (Alternative 4), would cost
between $355 million and $365 million and impact roughly one acre of wetlands.

As currently
proposed, the Alternative 4 bridge would be 45 feet high, enter Ocean City
south of 1st Street, and replace the existing span.

This
option includes a new southern route for exiting the bridge, with the
northbound connection continuing to put vehicles onto Baltimore Avenue.

The
work could potentially displace 21 houses and 16 businesses and would require
nine acres of right of way.

Alternative
5, the south parallel bridge option, would begin south of Route 50, and connect
to Division St. in Ocean City, preserving the current traffic pattern. This
version would have a higher draw span, 30 feet high, to reduce the number of
openings and reduce traffic back-ups. This option would displace six houses and
four businesses and cost $335 million to $345 million.

Alternative
5a would locate the new span to the north of the existing bridge, also
connecting to Division St., mirroring alternative 5. The north parallel bridge,
with costs estimated at $315 million to $325 million, would displace one house
and seven businesses.

Instead
of the six-lane bridge originally planned, the span has been cut down to four
lanes total, under all three alternatives.

Lanes
on any new bridge would be wider than on the existing span, and would be
bordered by wide sidewalks.

Plans
call for the existing bridge to be used as a fishing pier and bike and walking
path under all three options.

“I
will go [to the workshop] just because something might come up but it doesn’t
look to me like there’s anything here that ought to worry us,” said John
Maphis, president of the West Ocean City Association.

The association was
instrumental in eliminating a plan that would
have rerouted Route 50 behind the White Marlin Mall, displacing 154 houses and
14 businesses.

“It would have
bypassed the business district of West Ocean City and when you bypass something
like that the community bypassed dies, the business district just dies,” Maphis
said last fall.

Francis Scott Key
Motel owner Annemarie Dickerson added, “It would have been a death sentence not
just for my business but many of the businesses here.”

The
SHA plans to select an option in spring 2008. The final environmental study
will be completed by spring 2009, after which the SHA will seek approval of the
location and design.

 

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