Ocean City Seeks Public Input On New Boardwalk

OCEAN CITY – The re-construction of the Boardwalk has been looming over government leaders for a couple years, and options were presented at this week’s Mayor and City Council meeting on how the town could go about the massive project.

Ocean City’s Boardwalk extends from the Inlet to 27th street, reaching 11,850 feet. According to the Boardwalk Summary Report presented this week, most of the structure supporting the Boardwalk is over 50 years old.

In the past, Mother Nature has always dictated when it was time for the Boardwalk to be replaced by destroying it in storms. Now with the beach replenishment project and the seawall, the destruction of the Boardwalk has rarely been an issue.

With the amount of traffic on the Boardwalk over the years, including the tram traffic, the town’s visitors and even parades, it’s only natural for the Boardwalk to wear and tear.

City Engineer Terry McGean presented the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday with different options in redeveloping the Boardwalk. The suggested repairs for North Division Street to the Inlet are to replace all decking, repair concrete as needed, and to replace the ramp at South First to meet ADA requirements, re-constructing its slope. No substructure work is needed in that area.

However, from North Division Street to 4th Street, one option is to do a full replacement of all-wood decking supported by wood stringers, beams and new piles.

The other option would be to remove the wood decking, stringers and beams and construct a new wood deck over the stringers on concrete beams placed over the existing piles.

From 4th to 27th streets, three options were presented.

Option A is to remove the existing deck, stringers and beams, and cut off the existing piling, install new piling and new stronger timber beams and stringers, as well as a new deck.

Option B is to remove all deck, stringers and beams. Cut off the piling to an elevation to support new concrete beams, and install new concrete beams over the existing piling and stringers. Then replace the decking in an all-wood material.

Option C seemed to be favored the most by city staff. It calls for removing all decking, stringers and beams and cutting off all piles. A 11-foot wide stamped concrete train lane, resembling wood, will be installed in the center of the Boardwalk and outside of the train lane concrete beams will be installed over existing piling with new wood stringers and decking.

The advantages to Option C and the installation of the concrete path would include it is the least upfront cost, the concrete pavement works much better for the load of the tram, and it provides heavy vehicles, such as fire trucks, for the full length and width of the Boardwalk.

McGean also pointed out that the disadvantages would be the aesthetic look of the concrete verses the wood, and it will require a retaining wall along the west side of the Boardwalk in some areas.

There are a handful of options also as far as the material used for the decking of the new Boardwalk.

The current material is a southern yellow pine. It is the least costly and is a well-regulated commodity. However, the pine does wear down faster and its mandated treatment accelerates corrosion on the fasteners, according to McGean’s presentation.

Other options include tropical hardwoods, which are more costly, but longer lasting and stronger then the pine decking. There is also synthetic, or plastic, decking, which lasts longer then wood decking but is also costly, weaker and becomes slippery when wet.

The cost estimate for the project runs between $6 million and $10 million. The lowest cost pertains to the suggested concrete train lane option, which would cost the town $5.6-$8 million. The highest cost would be if all wooden materials were used in the Boardwalk’s construction, which would cost the town $7.3-$10 million.

The projected time frame for the project would be a minimum of two years, if the construction were to begin immediately at the beginning of the off season and continued through Memorial Day weekend each year.

“From a practical sense, there is certainly some reason to consider the concrete down the middle,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “However, I guess being a traditionalist, I prefer the wood boardwalk and making it as strong as we can.”

The mayor felt that Option B, the all-wood Boardwalk with the concrete beams, makes the most sense for Ocean City. Council President Jim Hall agreed with the mayor that the traditional look of the Boardwalk is important.

Councilman Joe Hall favored Option C, which includes the concrete train path, and said he has always leaned toward the concrete option in aspect to the cost saving and longevity it provides.

“Between Option B and Option C, there is probably about half of a million dollars difference, and that’s a significant number to me,” Joe Hall said.

Joe Hall also pointed out that the all-wood Boardwalk needs to be repaired every seven years, so the town is also looking at additional costs that wouldn’t be necessary with the proposed concrete portion of the Boardwalk.

He also added that the input from the Boardwalk Development Association (BDA), the Tourism Advisory Board and the public is important in making this decision.

Jim Hall reminded the council that 20 years ago there was a survey taken and the public strongly responded that the Boardwalk needs to remain as an all-wooden surface to keep the tradition.

Councilman Lloyd Martin made a motion to remand the options of the Boardwalk’s re-construction to staff, in order to receive the input of influential groups in town. He later amended his motion, at the suggestion of Joe Hall, to schedule a public hearing on the redevelopment options of the Boardwalk. Councilwoman Mary Knight seconded Martin’s motion and it was passed in a unanimous vote.

A public hearing will be scheduled in February to hear the input and comments of concerned citizens on the re-construction of the Boardwalk.