OCEAN CITY — Fresh off the successful implementation of a vast pedestrian safety campaign last summer, the State Highway Administration (SHA) last week announced a series of changes for Ocean City this year, including a new traffic signal at 54th Street that went live last Friday.
The engineering efforts are part of a comprehensive pedestrian safety improvement plan developed with the town of Ocean City.
“SHA is a member of the Ocean City Pedestrian Task Force, which emphasizes the three E’s — engineering, education and enforcement,” said District Engineer Donnie Drewer this week. “SHA is again partnering with police, business owners and elected officials to ensure vacationers and residents are safe as they enjoy the resort town.”
One of the most significant changes SHA is implementing this year is a new mid-block pedestrian traffic signal on Coastal Highway at 54th Street. SHA installed the $81,000 pedestrian safety signal this winter and in the middle of last week turned it into yellow-flash mode to get motorists used to the change. The new signal was fully functional as of last Friday.
When pedestrians activate the new signal by pressing the “walk” button on either side of the highway, the signal facing traffic on Coastal Highway will change first to yellow and then red, allowing a safe gap for pedestrians to use the crosswalk. An electronic countdown walk display will alert pedestrians of the number of seconds they have to safely cross.
Another significant change planned for this spring is to remove the depressed curbs and small wooden posts along Coastal Highway’s median through much of the midtown and uptown areas. In the past, the depressed curbs and wooden posts in the middle of them have posed problems for pedestrians by inviting them to cross the highway in an area that is not safe or signalized.
The hope is that by raising the curbs to full height and removing the small wooden posts which appear to invite crossings, pedestrians will be further reminded to cross at marked crosswalks. The project is expected to begin in early April and be completed before Memorial Day weekend, weather permitting.
Another major change in the works is the installation of “bump outs,” or curb extensions on Baltimore Ave. between 9th Street and 14th Street. Bump outs are commonly used traffic-control devices that narrow the width of the roadway at pedestrian crossings. Bump outs also widen the sidewalk at crosswalks, providing pedestrians with a shorter trip across the roadway.
The project is also set to get underway as soon as next week and the hope is to complete it by Memorial Day weekend. Because of the extended winter weather, any of the projects not completed by Memorial Day will be pushed back until after Labor Day.