SNOW HILL – During the Route 50 Bridge closure beginning Jan. 17, people who need public transit into or out of Ocean City will be able to take advantage of a temporary shuttle bus run by Shore Transit.
The temporary bus route, which will cost Worcester County $1,100 a day, for 35 days, will run between Ocean Pines and Ocean City via Route 90.
“I think we have an obligation to those employees to get [them] to work,” said Commissioner Bud Church, who was worried that his constituents in West Ocean City would not be able to get to work in Ocean City, and that employers in West Ocean City might be deprived of workers who live over the bridge.
Five of the County Commissioners present at Wednesday’s meeting agreed to the shuttle bus service, with Commissioner Judy Boggs dissenting. Commissioner Bobby Cowger was absent from the meeting.
“I feel strongly about personal responsibility. Go to your employer. Carpool,” Boggs said. “We’re setting a precedent so when the bridge is repaired we’ll still have these people we have to transport.”
Commission President Jim Purnell said it’s a matter of fairness.
“These people here depend on Shore Transit to get to and from work,” Purnell said. “We’re putting their jobs in jeopardy. They don’t have a car.”
Many people from Ocean City work in West Ocean City, Church said, recalling a visit to the White Marlin Mall when he realized that many of the employees rely on taking a bus into West Ocean City from the resort to get to work. With the bridge closed, “those people are stranded,” Church said. “That’s why I went to shore transit.”
Years ago, Purnell said, he ran his school bus between Ocean City and the rest of the county, before Shore Transit began, and businesses whose employees relied on that transportation pitched in to defray the cost.
Commissioner Louise Gulyas, who represents Ocean City, suggested approaching the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, and the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association for financial subsidy.
“When we started Shore Transit the whole thing was about moving the people around the county for jobs,” Gulyas said.
Church made a motion, which was approved, to fund the shuttle for 35 days with the county working on partners to defray the costs.
“We are really short on time,” Church said.