OCEAN CITY — Motorists accessing Route 90 heading into Ocean City over the next two months or so can expect detours and delays as State Highway Administration (SHA) officials this week announced a significant two-phase guardrail replacement project is set to get underway.
SHA officials this week announced the first of two phases of guardrail replacement along Route 90 from Route 113 to Coastal Highway is expected to begin Sunday. The first phase includes removing and replacing all existing guardrails along Route 90 from Route 113 to Route 589. The second phase includes removing and replacing all existing guardrails on Routes 90 and 589 and Coastal Highway.
During work hours, which are limited to Sunday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., all eastbound traffic on Route 90 will be detoured from Route 113 to Route 50 and ultimately into Ocean City via the Harry Kelley Memorial Bridge. An alternative detour will also be established allowing eastbound motorists on Route 90 to access the north end of Ocean City and Sussex County, Del. from Route 113 to Route 54.
However, westbound traffic on Route 90 will be open at all times during the project to ensure emergency services can travel from Ocean City to area hospitals in a timely manner, and to ensure mutual aid is available to surrounding communities. SHA crews and the contractor, L.S. Lee, Inc., of York, Pa., which was awarded the $1 million contract, will use variable message signs, arrow panels, traffic cones and barrels to direct single-lane closures during the life of the project, which is expected to be completed by mid-December.
SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer said this week the significant guardrail replacement has been in the planning stage for as long as 15 years and the time was right to undertake the project.
“It really wasn’t spurred on by anything,” he said. “It’s actually been on the books for several years.”
However, Drewer said routine inspections of the guardrail system along Route 90 might have expedited the project.
“We do periodic testing and what’s out there right now is at the end of its useful life,” he said. “We decided to go ahead and replace it now before we have a situation where it’s failing.”
With the construction hours limited to Sunday through Thursday, the project is not expected to impact weekend traffic entering the resort and the night-only hours will attempt to minimize the impact for daily commuters, according to Drewer.
“We’re trying to minimize the impact on traffic and on the motorists who use Route 90 day in and day out,” he said. “That’s why we set the hours and the days of the week the way we did.”
The guardrail project set to get underway on Sunday is the latest in a series of major undertakings along Route 90. Local residents will recall the bridge between Isle of Wight and Ocean City was closed for much of the winter beginning in October 2009 after a routine inspection revealed an 85-foot section of the span had deteriorated to the point it was unsafe for vehicles over 6,000 pounds to cross.
For much of that winter, the Route 90 bridge was closed as the 85-foot section was removed and replaced with a new section fabricated offsite. The new section was brought to the bridge on a barge and lifted into place. For several weeks, the Route 90 bridge was closed and traffic in and out of Ocean City was detoured around Route 50 or Route 54.
Drewer said this week the guardrail replacement project won’t cause the disruption or delays that project caused, nor will it last as long. Drewer also said there are no other major road projects scheduled for this winter.
“We don’t have any other major projects planned for this year,” he said. “Frankly, we don’t have any money to do anything else, even if we wanted to.”