County Needs More Walking, Biking Opportunities

SNOW HILL – Bicycle and pedestrian travel must become priorities for Worcester County, according to a draft of the North Worcester County Transportation Study presented to the Worcester County Planning Commission last week.

The county must also ensure planned improvements are carried out to ensure that levels of service at several major intersections do not simply breakdown by 2030.

As the north end of the county continues to develop, planners must evaluate the suitability of existing roads as bike routes, traffic consultant Christine Wells said, and plan for bicyclists during development of new places.

“Now you need to anticipate these kinds of facilities wherever you have activity centers,” said Wells.

Wells recommended that the county construct a map showing existing bike facilities and planned future bike routes. Some roads could be restriped to create a wider shoulder or an unpaved shoulder could be hardened, to accommodate bikes, she said.

Golf Course Rd. and Keyser Point Rd. in West Ocean City are two streets that should be high on the bike route list.

“It’s important for the county to establish priorities,” said Wells.

Walking routes need the same treatment, according to Wells. They must be identified, planned for the future and prioritized.

More pedestrian routes would help the populace be more active, a health benefit, and reduce automobile trips in neighborhoods.

Sidewalks are needed particularly in the Berlin and Showell areas, the report concluded.

The county government must work with the State Highway Administration to construct or require developers to construct walking and bike paths along major highways like Route 589, Wells said, as well as taking steps under its own authority to support mixed use development and allow shared parking.

Public transit in Worcester County needs more balanced coverage, Wells said, and needs to add trips to become more successful.

“You attract more riders when riders have an option,” said Wells. “As service improves in frequency you get more riders.”

A shuttle serving Berlin, Ocean Pines and the Route 50 commercial corridor is necessary, she said.

“I think a shuttle service simply making that loop route would be quite viable,” Wells said.

Merchants often support such services financially as a way of adding to a customer base.

The report’s number one public transport concern is Shore Transit’s need for a steady funding source.

Assuming a 4.5-percent growth rate, and no planned improvements, traffic analyst Steven Aaron predicted that several major northern county intersections would face complete breakdowns in level of service by 2030.

Improvements, like the Route 50 service road, the Route 50 Bridge replacement, the dualization of Route 113 and Route 589, and the addition of the proposed Berlin Western Collector would prevent those problems, Aaron said.

Some roads have more urgent issues than others. The intersection of Route 113 and Route 346 (Old Ocean City Blvd.), will reach an “F” level of service by 2015 if no improvements are made. Traffic analysts rate service levels on a scale of A to F.

“We see there’s a complete breakdown [at that intersection] for 2030 using the existing configuration,” Aaron said.

Aaron listed five other intersections that must be improved by 2030 to avoid failure: Route 818 (Berlin’s Main St.) and Route 113; Route 818 and Route 50; Route 346 and Route 50; Route 610 (Whaleyville Rd.) and Route 346; and Route 818 and Route 346.

Improvements could include more lanes, better signal timing, or even a complete redesign, but even those improvements, said Aaron, might not result in high levels of service, but merely average or a bit below.

The county should also consider adding access controls to rural roads if the level of service drops, Aaron said.

Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting for Worcester County, challenged the analysis of the Route 376 (Assateague Rd.) and Route 113 intersection, which had aroused some controversy during a discussion in December.

“F? I’ll eat the traffic signal if they’re F. There’s no way,” Tudor said.

The analysis has been double-checked, said Wells.

The work had to rely on signal timing taken in the field, rather than times as set by the State Highway Administration, Aaron said, as the SHA numbers were not available. That could have introduced an element of error, he said.

“I am completely overwhelmed by the study. I think we probably need to work session this,” said Brooks Clayville, vice president of the Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission decided to take some time to digest the study and will hold a work session on the second Thursday in August to discuss the transportation analysis.