BERLIN – For the first winter in three years, there will be no major bridge maintenance projects interfering with Ocean City traffic.
Commuters going to and from the resort have come to expect delay and detours over the last few years after the tourist season comes to a close. This year, traffic should continue to flow smoothly.
Three years ago, the Route 50 Bridge was closed for two months during the winter. Traffic that would have used that entrance to Ocean City had to be rerouted across the Route 90 bridge forcing all vehicles to enter the city at 62nd Street.
Both lanes needed to be resurfaced but only the eastbound was worked on at that time. The bridge was closed for another two months the following winter to complete the westbound lane. State Highway Administration District Engineer Donnie Drewer said that the decision to repave the bridge one lane at a time was necessary to avoid congestion during tourist season.
“It was the exact same project,” said Drewer. “We chose to split it in two parts because we didn’t want to have to close the bridge in the summer.”
While having the Route 50 Bridge closed for several months two years in a row may have been inconvenient, it shouldn’t happen again any time soon. When asked how long it would be before the lanes needed to once again be repaved, Drewer stated that it wouldn’t happen anytime in the near future.
“What we did should last 20 years, at least,” claimed Drewer. “It should last as long as the bridge.”
The Route 50 Bridge wasn’t the only one that needed work, however. Last winter, the Route 90 bridge, which had served as the alternate means of entering Ocean City while Route 50 was being worked on, itself needed to be closed for repairs, causing the newly resurfaced Route 50 bridge to become the detour.
Unlike the repaving project of the previous two years, work on Route 90 was unexpected.
“It was an emergency,” said Drewer. “The center span failed. We’d been monitoring the support beams for awhile and decided that it would be unsafe not to replace them.”
Much like the Route 50 repairs, Drewer stated that the work done to Rt. 90 would, “serve for many years.”
The decision to make the replacement happened before anyone was hurt and likely saved lives, officials said. Still, it meant that winter commuters to Ocean City found themselves facing a third consecutive year of orange barrels and flashing detour signs. This year things won’t be so drastic, according to Drewer.
While the less crowded winter months will still be used to perform maintenance, neither bridge will be closed, meaning those wishing to enter the town on 1st Street won’t need to travel down from 62nd Street and vice versa.
The main project for this winter is a repaving of Coastal Highway. The area affected will be between 9th and 26th streets and shouldn’t take nearly as long as the bridge work.
“We’ll start within the next month,” said Drewer. “It might take a couple of weeks, probably less but I want to give myself a little leeway.”
Besides the actual street work, Drewer also mentioned possible work on city sidewalks. That project would be much different than when roads are resurfaced.
“The effect on traffic would be minimal,” he said. “We might have to close one lane.”