OCEAN CITY — Ocean City officials have found less deterioration to the infrastructure of the Boardwalk than they had expected to find, but that doesn’t mean that their plan to reconstruct the entire landmark in the next few years has been tabled.
After the bid to replace the decking of the Boardwalk between 12th and 13th streets was awarded in December, town officials revealed their long-term plans for a serious and major Boardwalk project that would address the aging infrastructure and perhaps alter the aesthetic of one of the town’s most treasured tourist attraction.
“The section between 12th and 13th streets was deemed to be in the worst shape as far as the decking goes, so we figured that when we got a look at how the infrastructure was faring under the deck, we’d get a snapshot of the condition of the Boardwalk as a whole,” said Public Works Director Hal Adkins on Wednesday.
What they found, however, was a bit of a surprise to Adkins, as the whalers and stringers (two main components of the infrastructure system beneath the Boardwalk deck) weren’t showing signs of rapid deterioration as officials had predicted in December.
“We didn’t find any evidence of a problem as far as rotting goes, because we expected to find the infrastructure packed full of sand which would retain moisture and essentially rot the boards, and that wasn’t the case,” said Adkins.
As the contractors finish up the project between 12th and 13th streets, Adkins says that since that project was “so far under budget,” the town will more than likely choose another street (alleged to be 15th Street) that is in need of new decking and get a glimpse underneath to see if they will be equally surprised with the condition of the infrastructure below that street as they were between 12th and 13th streets.
“If it isn’t what we originally thought, then we still have to address why the boards continue to pop up and the nails aren’t holding their ‘purchase’ [a term used by carpenters to describe a nail’s hold into a piece of wood],” said Adkins. “My initial thought is very similar to the city manager’s in that if it isn’t rotting, the boards have to be popping up because of the amount of vehicular traffic that travels the boards.”
During an interview in December, City Manager Dennis Dare hinted that the town’s long-term plans for Boardwalk renovation could include a concrete path for vehicles in the spot where the existing painted tram lane sits.
“It would be as easy as building a sidewalk down the middle of the Boardwalk, and having wooden walkways on either side,” said Dare. “After Hurricane Gloria , I recommended that we start running the boards diagonally so it would evenly disperse the weight of the vehicles and the immense foot traffic to extend the life of the boards.”
Adkins seemed to hint that the findings underneath 12th and 13th street could indicate that Dare’s idea could become a substantial solution.
“It seems that something is causing these nails to release from their purchase points, and more than likely, it’s from all the vibration caused from the increased number of vehicles that travel on the Boardwalk during special events over the course of the year,” said Adkins. “I have nothing against the corvettes being up there, but it seems that facts could be facts.”
Adkins added that Dare’s idea to basically put a sidewalk down the center of the Boardwalk would essentially address the added weight of the tram and other vehicles, while at the same time, “drastically extending the life of the decking that will set on either side of it.”
What this recent finding does not do, however, is push the project, which was said to possibly begin somewhere around 2012, back any further than was originally planned.
“It doesn’t change the planning because the substructure is not going to get any newer as time goes on, and we are already dealing with beams that haven’t been touched since 1985, and some parts of the Boardwalk haven’t been renovated dating back to 1962,” Adkins said. “If you don’t face infrastructure problems now, the aging problems that we could face down the road could be much worse.”