OCEAN CITY – Weekend traffic in the summer months can be a headache in Ocean City, as cars inch slowly forward in an attempt to cross the Route 50 Bridge and see the blue sparkle of the ocean finally peak over the horizon line. The bumper-to-bumper traffic grind can become maddening as accidents shut down lanes, as every stop light turns red as you approach, or as was apparent this summer, the drawbridge breaks, sending you on a re-route to the Route 90 Bridge. Although traffic will be seeing a significant drop-off after this weekend’s Labor Day boom comes to an end, the Police Commission is already discussing ways to improve upon traffic for the future.
Mayor Rick Meehan addressed the issue of traffic on the Route 50 Bridge at last week’s Police Commission meeting, contemplating different ways that traffic could be improved upon.
Police Chief Bernadette DiPino addressed the issue, assuring Meehan that there are indeed officers assigned to the bridge detail, making sure that traffic runs as smoothly as possible. Unfortunately, traffic snarls are inevitable when there are essentially only three ways to get into the resort area.
DiPino also pointed out that continually flushing traffic into town may keep the traffic back up to town at a minimum but would have an adverse affect on the rest of traffic throughout town.
“If we flush traffic in, it stops south- and west-bound traffic, which causes another sector of traffic back up,” DiPino said.
Steady traffic flow into town also affects side-street traffic as well as pedestrian traffic along Baltimore Ave. If there is a steady flow into town along Baltimore Ave., then the ability to cross the road on foot or by car from side streets becomes increasingly more difficult.
DiPino added police have considered the possibility that timing issues with stoplights as well as additional stoplights in West Ocean City may be causing added delays that have not been seen in past summers. The result of this scenario is cars inching forward from one red light only to get caught at the next one. This inevitably causes a hindrance to the traffic flow.
Meehan addressed one Saturday traffic snarl where eight to 10 accidents occurred on Route 50 as well as the Route 50 Bridge shutting down. The traffic backup worsened when the signs coming into town failed to inform drivers to use Route 90 in lieu of Route 50.
DiPino pointed out how effectively the OCPD is at clearing up accidents and directing traffic in town, adding that the officers must work with the Maryland State Police to make sure traffic is moving as effectively on the way in to town.
Meehan suggested that the officers assigned to the bridge detail be more proactive in flagging traffic into town, pointing out that just moving cars along that tend to slow as they enter town can have a huge affect.
Councilman Jay Hancock agreed, adding that moving people in the right-turn lane off the bridge would be beneficial. The lane was implemented several years ago to improve the flow of traffic, however motorists often stop, waiting for southbound traffic to cease, unaware that they have their own lane to travel in.
“I think we can always do better,” Meehan said. “We are proactive and we are taking action to make sure we rectify those problems.”
The commission agreed it would be valuable to bring several people together, including the Maryland State Police, at the end of the summer, to have a discussion and make plans for the 2008 summer season.