OCEAN CITY – During Tuesday afternoon’s Mayor and City Council work session, State Highway Administration (SHA) District Engineer Donnie Drewer and Assistant District Engineer Dallas Baker presented a bi-annual update of ongoing efforts to enhance pedestrian safety as well where the concept of a “road diet” on Coastal Highway stands.
During the last spring’s update, Baker announced a new pedestrian crossing signal was installed at 54th Street in front of Macky’s Bayside Bar and Grill similar to the pedestrian signal on 49th Street in front of Seacrets that became active on March 21.
This week Baker added median pedestrian lighting was added to 54th Street, and the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) has asked SHA to consider adding the same median lighting to the signal on 49th Street.
“We put that design in place and it was approved. Construction is scheduled to begin in August of 2015, but we are pushing to have it installed before the tourism season,” Baker said. “It was very well received and it certainly makes the pedestrians in the median pop at night to be more visible.”
During the spring update, the council asked if additional landscaping or fencing during the median modification project would better deter pedestrians from crossing mid-block.
“I have been in touch with our landscaping department, and they have been out to take a look. I think that is going to move forward. It will probably be at a snail’s pace but maybe within the next couple of years they will start doing several blocks at a time from 26th Street to the Delaware line,” Drewer said.
Baker furthered currently there are 13 intersections between 45th Street and 130th Street planned to receive ADA upgrades to the ramps as well as have pedestrian signal upgrades.
One of those intersections will be 101st Street where the council has stressed SHA to have a study conducted to install a pedestrian signal due to the high foot traffic in that area.
“We did a pedestrian signal analysis at 101st Street and it did meet the requirements for a pedestrian signal, so we will be placing a pedestrian signal there,” Drewer said. “We have a sign request in, and right now the schedule is to have the signal in by Oct. 1, 2015 but we are trying to push that forward to have it in before the tourism season.”
SHA is continuing pedestrian safety measures in the downtown areas as well on Baltimore Ave. by constructing sidewalk “bump outs” on 3rd Street and between 9th and 15th streets.
Baker explained a “bump out” is where the end of a sidewalk will be extended out into the parking lane granting the pedestrian better sight to see on oncoming cars as well as giving drivers better visibility of pedestrians trying to cross the road.
“The plans are in their final review stage. They are at 90 percent. The goal is to have them constructed before the start of the 2015 tourist season. We will be doing that over the winter months,” Drewer said.
As far as West Ocean City, SHA is conducting a conceptual study to construct a bike path on the south side of Route 50 from Route 611 to the Route 50 Drawbridge, as well as include additional sidewalks on the north side of Route 50 in this area.
“We are pursuing funding to do the rest of preliminary engineering, and we hope to have that engineering done by Fall of 2015, and have construction begin shortly thereafter,” Baker said.
For years, the SHA and the town have been deliberating a “Road Diet” on Coastal Hwy. During the spring update, SHA had just received a report on its preliminary investigation of the concept.
Currently Coastal Highway is eight lanes wide with three mixed-use lanes and a bus/bike lane on each rightmost side. The road diet concept proposes to change to three lanes with the third lane being mixed-use for buses and cars and use the 14-foot existing bus lane to become a general purpose lane for bus stops, a right-turn lane and bicycle lane, as well as widening sidewalks from 5 feet to 8-10 feet.
On Tuesday, Drewer stated SHA had recently held a meeting with stakeholders, such as Ocean City Department of Public Works and OCPD, to discuss the design, and Drewer asked for the same meeting to take place with the Mayor and City Council.
“We would like to do that sometime between now and the first of the year … to show you how traffic will operate,” Drewer said.
The council agreed and looked forward to the sit down, Council President Lloyd Martin said.