Bunting Worried 589 Corridor Plan Could Hurt Growth

SNOW HILL — Future changes to Route 589 got a little closer Tuesday after the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) presented its Md. 589 Corridor Vision Plan to the Worcester County Commissioners. However, some commissioners questioned what kind of impact the plan might have on local growth.

Last October, SHA presented the basics of the vision plan to the commission, who approved of the concept.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the commission received a more in-depth look at the design. Commissioner Madison Bunting expressed concerns that the plan might halt development close to Route 589.

“I just think it’s too specific … it gets a little deeper than it should for a ‘vision,’” he said of the plan.

Bunting highlighted the 160-foot right-of-way held by most of the nearly five-mile long corridor section. Having that much area dedicated to the relatively small road seemed unusual, said Bunting.

SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer informed Bunting that the actual road itself didn’t require a 160-foot right-of-way. However, the planned landscaping, stormwater management, hiking and biking paths and other additions meant to compliment the corridor would need most of that extra room.

“All of that is taken into consideration with that 160 feet,” said Drewer.

Bunting was still hesitant about accepting the plan at the stage it’s in.
“Are we looking at something here we shouldn’t be looking at?” he asked.

“It’s just a vision,” said SHA Project Manager Carmeletta Harris.

Harris reminded the commission that work on Route 589 stretched far into the future, with short-term goals not expected to be met until 2015, and long-term not until 2030. But accepting the vision plan is the next step, said Harris.

Despite the assurances, Bunting maintained concerns that accepting the plan could turn into a “tool to limit growth.”

“I don’t see why we’re enforcing something that doesn’t really exist,” he said.

Another point Bunting wondered about was whether or not the proposed expansion on Route 589 would have a significant, positive impact in alleviating traffic in the area, especially the heavy congestion common on weekends during the summer.

Drewer admitted that, no matter what the SHA did, Ocean City drew in so many visitors during tourist season that there would probably always be traffic to some degree or another.

“You can only put four quarts in a four quart bucket,” he joked.
Bunting recognized that as well, though he stood by his earlier issues with enforcing the vision.
Commissioner Louise Gulyas, however, reminded Bunting that the concept is a work in progress.

“The operative word is plan. Plans change,” said Gulyas. “This isn’t even a plan yet. … It’ll probably change 14 times.”

Due to the flexible nature of the vision, Gulyas didn’t harbor many concerns about approving it. She also noted that, even if the specifics change, it would be beneficial to have the vision on record to give people an idea of what to expect.

“I think it’s a good idea to have this on the map,” she said. “They [residents] will know the boundaries.”

The next step for the vision plan will be to head to the Planning Commission for further review. After that, a public hearing will be scheduled to give anyone with concerns a chance to discuss the Md. 589 Corridor Vision Plan.