OCEAN CITY – During an update with the State Highway Administration this week, resort officials asked for consideration in prioritizing the dualization of Route 90 ahead of the reconstruction of the Route 50 Bridge.
Tuesday afternoon marked the bi-annual meeting between the Town of Ocean City and the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) where SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer and Assistant District Engineer Ken Cimino discussed the Route 90 and Route 50 bridges along with other maintenance and repairs on Coastal Highway.
Drewer began with the Route 90 bridge and the town’s request to dualize the secondary entrance into Ocean City to help alleviate traffic.
“I know you had sent a letter to the administrator referencing dualizing the Route 90 Bridge. Where that is in the hierarchy I really am not sure, but I do know that in order for it to get more attention it needs to be included in the Worcester County priority letter,” he said. “Right now Route 113 is their [Worcester County Commissioners’] first priority, Route 589 is their second priority and Route 50 Bridge is their third priority. So what you need to do is get Route 90 in that pecking order.”
Mayor Rick Meehan asserted he had submitted a letter to the Worcester County prioritizing the dualization of the Route 90 bridge prior to reconstruction of the Route 50 bridge on behalf of Ocean City, and the letter was included in the County Commissioners’ Nov. 5 agenda packet when the commissioners had a discussion with SHA over the Annual Consolidated Transportation Program.
The letter dated June 18, 2013 states, “This letter, and supporting documentation, is offered in an effort to highlight a concern of Ocean City relative to long range planning and the effects the replacement of the US50 bridge will have on overall accessibility to Ocean City. Based on recent Studies and Alternative Analysis, the eventual replacement of the US50 bridge has the potential (and reality) of causing severe traffic congestion issues, for multiple summer seasons, for those who chose to visit Ocean City as their vacation destination.”
The letter furthers, “It is with this stated that we truly feel it far more prudent to compete the dualization of the entire MD90 corridor, from US50 to MD528 (Coastal Highway), prior to replacement of the US50 bridge. With the right of way already in place, a major time consuming hurdle on such a project is a non-issue and should position the state to expedite the project.”
Drewer responded he would look into the matter and get back to the mayor, and continued to report inspections were conducted on the Route 90 Bridge this past spring, and as a result there were no constructional deficiencies discovered.
Drewer acknowledged the town’s concerns over Route 90 bridge parapet walls becoming unsightly and needing to be either power washed or repainted.
“It is against policy to tear the walls down, and as far as power washing is concerned with that bridge being as long as it is we really couldn’t power wash it and survive environmentally because we would have to catch all the water after we power wash,” Drewer said. “So it is kind of a no-win situation because I don’t think we would ever be able to get a permit to do that, so hopefully we can come up with some other ways we can attack the problem.”
The Route 50 Bridge is on a two-year inspection schedule, Drewer said, and the last inspection revealed no major problems. The study for a new Route 50 Bridge has been completed and a parallel drawbridge with a 30-foot clearance has been selected and the design has been approved.
“A couple years ago, we completed a decking replacement and it was estimated the existing bridge has 20 years of service left, so the question is when will the new bridge be in place … we are going to keep the existing bridge in as good of a condition as long as we can, and then we will have to have a plan in place to replace the Route 50 bridge,” Drewer said.
Additionally, during this week’s meeting, a list of maintenance and repairs to Coastal Highway that will be completed before next summer was submitted, including the majority of the remaining depressed center median sections with wooden bollards for pedestrian crossing will be removed from the Delaware line to 9th Street this winter and spring. The town has been asking for the median crossings to be removed for years to encourage pedestrians to cross the highway at marked crosswalks.
Cimino acknowledged complaints were received last summer regarding the signal timing at the 94th Street intersection causing traffic congestion between 94th and 120th streets. As a result, the signal timing for north and southbound traffic was adjusted to give a longer length of timing for the main line, which seemed to relieve some of the congestion.
“We are going to go with that this year and make adjustments as needed along that corridor,” Cimino said.
Both Councilman Dennis Dare and Councilman Joe Mitrecic voiced ongoing concerns over the signal timing at 94th Street.
“The 94th Street light is horrendous. We have cuing on all sides at 120th Street and it doesn’t do what happens at 94th Street, so something needs to happen more stringently there because you can sit at that light at 94th Street for five to six minutes at a time,” Mitrecic said. “The other problem is the turning lane signal is so short only four or five cars can go, so then we have cars piling up into the main lane waiting to move into the turning lane.”
Cimino reassured the 94th Street signal timing is a work in progress and will continue to be studied with adjustments to be made as warranted.
‘I agree with you there is a happy medium but that happy medium is not going to happen overnight,” Cimino said. “We need to identify exactly what the problem is and recognize alternatives. We want traffic to move. We don’t want frustrated drivers.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight asked about SHA’s plans to eliminate the intersection in front of Wal-Mart and Home Depot on Route 50.
After the new signal was put in at the Samuel Bowen Blvd., a service road that is expected to ultimately run parallel to Route 50 from Holly Grover Road to Seahawk Road, SHA studied both intersections of Samuel Bowen Blvd. and the existing intersection in front of the shopping complex for a year.
“We determined that the majority of the traffic was now using the new Samuel Bowen Blvd. and the connector road to the Ocean Landing property. So, we are in the process right now of making a request to the Office of Traffic and Safety to have the existing signal in front of the Home Depot and Wal-Mart removed,” Cimino said.
Knight also questioned the larger circumference of the new Delmarva Power poles being replaced on Coastal Hwy., and if SHA foresees any kind of problems, such as the poles being closer to edge of the sidewalk and interfering with the buses.
Drewer responded he would look into the issue and follow up.
Mitrecic also questioned how the poles’ larger circumference will interfere with ADA sidewalk requirements.
“We just spent all this money making the sidewalks ADA accessible through town, and now Delmarva has come and put these huge poles in the middle of our sidewalks again,” he said.
Drewer responded there are 94 poles being replaced and all but six meet SHA’s ADA requirements and Delmarva Power has requested a waiver to address the issue.