Updated Route 50, 589 Traffic Study Eyed

SNOW HILL — County planners want an updated traffic impact study on the Route 50 and Route 589 area before signing off on a major reconfiguration of traffic patterns including the installation of a new light.

The Worcester County Technical Review Committee (TRC) this week reviewed plans for several projects in the West Ocean City-Berlin areas including a site plan approval revision for the Ocean Landings II project on the south side of Route 50 just east of Route 589 in the area of the existing Wal-Mart and Home Depot stores. For several weeks, road crews have been busy making a new cut across the median and installing a new traffic signal just west of the existing intersection at the entrance to the large retail centers on Route 50.

Eventually, the new signal will replace the existing signal at the entrance to the Wal-Mart-Home Depot complex and connect to a future service road along the south side of Route 50. Already, crews have built a service road for construction traffic accessing the development of the new Super Wal-Mart behind the existing Wal-Mart and the service road will ultimately provide access to Ocean Landings I and Ocean Landings II projects, the future occupants of which have not been disclosed.

However, before the major reconfiguration of traffic patterns in the area goes into effect, TRC members this week expressed an interest in having the traffic study for the area updated. The traffic study, including specific traffic counts, for Ocean Landings I and II was last conducted in 2003 and county planner are seeking updated figures for the intersections before signing off on a site plan amendment.

“The area of Routes 50 and 589 is our major concern,” said State Highway Administration (SHA) engineer Wayne Snowden, who appeared at the TRC meeting on Wednesday to help address some of the traffic issues. “We need an updated version of the traffic counts for that area. The information should be readily available.”

For the new signal at Route 50 just east of Route 589, the solution could be as simple as changing the lane markings on the road. The intersection was designed to have three dedicated left turn lanes coming out of the retail complex, but it could be striped to allow for just two left turn lanes.

Attorney Mark Cropper, representing the Ocean Landings II developer, said the changes should considerably improve safety in that area of the Route 50 corridor.

“When the traffic study was last conducted, that intersection got a grade of Level D, and not a good level D,” he said. “My understanding is that these changes will improve that to a Level B.”

Nonetheless, TRC officials urged the developers to update the traffic study, including the traffic counts, for the intersection.

“Frankly, I’m concerned about 589,” said Snowden. “If I were you all, I wouldn’t base a decision on a traffic study that old.”

Other projects reviewed by the TRC on Wednesday included the development of a new CVS pharmacy on Route 50 on the southwest corner of its intersection with Keyser Point Rd. on a site that most recently held a discount mattress outlet and was the former home of Avalon Market and the Harley Davidson store. TRC members questioned the developer about architectural designs, landscaping and stormwater plans and potential Critical Areas issues.

The TRC on Wednesday also reviewed plans for a new Walgreens on Route 589 on the southwest corner of Cathell Rd. County planners commented on the importance of sidewalks and pedestrian access along with the need for architectural designs consistent with the corridor.

“This is a very important project because it’s going to be the first building since our design guidelines for that corridor have been in place,” said County Planning Commissioner Brooks Clayville, who acts as a liaison to the TRC. “You’re going to be a test case of sorts out there. We want to see something consistent with the post office and library in that area.”

Finally, the TRC reviewed plans for the construction of a new Ocean City Worship Center on the south side of Route 50 just east of Seahawk Rd. The plans call for a 47,000-plus square-foot church along with assorted other buildings and outdoor recreational facilities. TRC members questioned the developers on various aspects of the plan including designs, stormwater management issues, landscaping and ingress and egress along the busy corridor.

Like other projects that came before the TRC on Wednesday, the Ocean City Worship Center has service road issues to deal with before final site plan approval is issued. The property is located near the western terminus of the future service road that runs from West Ocean City to Berlin and a proposed realignment could impact the property.