SNOW HILL – Three Ocean Pines bridges are now on the Worcester County roads inventory, which should make the aging bridges eligible for state and federal funding.
The three bridge spans now included in Worcester County’s road inventory are Ocean Pines’ North Gate bridge, the bridge at Clubhouse Drive and the bridge on Ocean Parkway south of Clubhouse Drive.
The new status of the three bridges means that Ocean Pines will have access to state and federal funding for maintenance, repairs and future replacement, said county Public Works Director John Tustin.
The Worcester County Commissioners held a public hearing this week before accepting the bridges onto the county roads list.
“We think it will be a good thing for all of us,” said Ocean Pines Association President Bill Rakow.
During the public hearing, Ocean Pines resident Robert Harden said he supported the designation of the community’s bridges as county roads because of the expenses associated with keeping up or eventually replacing those aging structures. Before the change, all responsibility for maintenance, repairs or replacement fell solely on the community’s assessment payers.
“I appreciate the concept of the commissioners trying to get some assistance in maintaining these bridges,” said Harden.
During the public hearing, Harden took the opportunity to tell the commissioners the community needs a safer and more driver friendly bridge at the North Gate.
The North Gate bridge needs some work, Harden said, because the lanes are narrow and the turns are difficult, which have caused vehicles to damage the bridge.
“The road needs to be marked properly,” said Harden.
This will help motorists make those turns safely especially at night or in bad weather, Harden feels.
“It does take some time to line the vehicle up appropriately,” said Harden, which can be more difficult for the numerous elderly drivers who have retired to Ocean Pines.
The North Gate bridge also needs better illumination, according to Harden.
“The lighting on the bridge is of low value except from an aesthetic point of view,” he said.
The lights only cover the bridge perimeter and give the illusion that the bridge is wider than it is, he felt.
Harden said he appreciates the efforts the County Commissioners are making to help Ocean Pines with the North Gate bridge, since the state of Maryland is not likely to make those bridge improvements soon.
Although he was told the bridge would be improved during the Route 589 expansion, that time is far off, Harden acknowledged. The North Gate bridge needs help now, however.
“I thought the community was going to be left holding the bag,” said Harden.
With the bridges now listed as county roads, Ocean Pines will not be on its own for any future bridge projects.
“It’s another example of the county and Ocean Pines working together,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs, whose represents the community.
The new county roads designation for the Ocean Pines bridges would take the burden from the community’s residents alone and allow the community to get grants and federal funding to improve the spans, said Boggs.
“The door is not closed regarding State Highway helping with that. That process takes a very long time,” said Boggs.
Ocean Pines will have to work with the State Highway Administration on costs and funding, Boggs said.