While it’s unlikely to matter in the short term, Ocean City officials are wise to pursue Route 90, rather than Route 50, as a priority infrastructure project.
At last week’s County Commissioner meeting, the Maryland Department of Transportation reviewed its six-year transportation project budget with Worcester officials. Continuing the dualization phases of Route 113 remains the top priority for the state and the county, but the discussion gets interesting after that. For years, adding lanes to Route 589 has been the second priority with the Route 50 Bridge vying for more consideration. Last year Ocean City officials made a case that dualizing Route 90 is actually the resort’s more pressing project, and some in the county even believe it’s more of a time-sensitive matter than Route 589.
It’s ironic that this summer’s Route 50 Bridge malfunction played a part in the argument to prioritize Route 90 by the city last week. Rather than advocating for the current bridge to be replaced because of the breakdown, the city maintained it underscored the importance of improving the secondary route into Ocean City from a public safety perspective.
We agree the Route 90 dualization is more important and should be the higher priority than Route 50. However, it’s going to be an uphill battle to sway the state because funding has already been directed to studying the Route 50 Bridge replacement. A design has been selected. However, there is no short-term intention to carry out the design anytime soon.
Replacing the Route 50 Bridge will be a massive undertaking, involving the taking of private lands to the north and south of the current span, as will the Route 90 approach and two bridges. It’s worth remembering Route 90 features two elevated spans and both will need lanes added during any type of dualization.
Leaving aside the major timeline issue and accompanying practical concerns, the city is right from a fundamental perspective to get Route 90 ranked higher on the county’s priority list. Currently, the priorities in order are Route 113, Route 589, Route 50 and Route 90. The city would like it to be Route 113, Route 90, Route 589 and Route 50.
Barring a major change in the county’s thought process, there is a slim chance Route 90 will leapfrog Route 589 in that unofficial ranking of priority infrastructure projects. The reason being Route 589 is more of a daily problem, while getting into Ocean City is a six-week traffic concern. However, there is the public safety regard when it comes to evacuating hundreds of thousands of people in an expedient fashion, particularly if the Route 50 Bridge malfunctions at the worst possible time.
Volume on Route 90 is higher than ever before, and the further commercialization of Route 50 near the Route 589 intersection will only further spike traffic and result in even more traffic lights along that highway. The city would be wise to argue that will lead more motorists seeking to get into Ocean City to choose Route 90 because there are no traffic lights and no commercial entities to slow motorists.
At this point, construction on any of the priority considerations — Routes 589, 90 and 50 — are at least a decade away, but the city should continue to build its case for Route 90.