SHA, Resort Discuss Bridge, Infrastructures Issues

OCEAN CITY – Representatives from the State Highway Administration (SHA) updated the Mayor and City Council on current and scheduled projects on the town’s surrounding roadways.

District Engineer Donnie Drewer and Assistant District Engineer for traffic Kenneth Cimino responded to a number of questions and concerns including the following points:

Will the draw span on the Route 50 Bridge be repainted blue? When the last renovation was completed, in which the expanded decking and subsurface beams were replaced, the new parts were never painted. They were left with what appears to be a red oxide primer.

Drewer said there is a plan to re-paint but will not happen for at least another three years. He added what appears to be red-oxide primer is surface rust on the beams but has no detrimental effect to the bridge.

Council President Jim Hall was disappointed that only parts of the bridge are planned to be re-painted and not as soon as he would like.

“We discuss this every year,” Drewer said. “I can’t guarantee you the whole bridge.”

Will the black chain link fencing on the Route 50 Bridge be re-painted?

Drewer said that when the bridge’s deck was sand blasted the fence was covered with grout and could mostly be fixed by being power washed. He added that the real problem with the fence is its posts where the black paint has become galvanized, and he will look into having crews repaint them.

Jim Hall asked if there was a chance in having the fence replaced all together.

“I can only tell you that we can keep an eye on it and try to get it in our budget,” Drewer said. “As far as our budget is concerned right now, it is really tight … I will keep it on the forefront. I will not put it on the back burner.”

The weeds along Coastal Highway, both the sidewalks and the center island median, grew extremely fast this past year. At what interval should the city expect cutting to be done starting in the spring of 2012?

Drewer said the sidewalks and center medians are reviewed late May to early June and at that time the weeds will be sprayed with herbicide and will continue as necessary through the summer season.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas expressed concern over the toxicity of the herbicides used because it becomes runoff into the surrounding waterways.

“I can’t speak for that professionally but just knowing how responsible we are, that we do use the least harming agents on the road sides,” Drewer said.

What is the plan for landscaping in the center median at 128th Street in front of the Montego Bay Shopping Center?

Drewer said the landscaping department of SHA has agreed to assist Ocean City in a landscape design but will not commit to the planting since that is a responsibility the town took on when the medians were constructed.

What is the status of SHA installing the Corporate Limit Sign on the Route 50 Bridge as requested by the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD)?

Drewer said the signs have been ordered and have just received a delivery date so they will be installed by the end of this month.

Has SHA completed all the re-staining of the stamped crosswalks they intend to complete?

“Yes, for this year,” Drewer responded. He added that there is enough material left over to complete seven additional crosswalks and plan on having those finished by next summer.

What locations will SHA complete sidewalk replacements for handicap accessibility concerns and removal of median depressions where no adjoining crosswalk exists?

Drewer said the next phase of this project includes 52nd to 62nd streets, 72nd to 81st streets, 100th to 131st streets and from 136th to 141st streets. All other sections have already been completed. The remaining work should be finished by Memorial Day.

Does SHA intend to mill and resurface all lanes southbound of 26th to 9th streets, following the sewer main project?

Drewer said the roads will be milled and resurfaced. He did not have a completion date but said they will be finished before next summer keeping the hot rod car event in mind, which is scheduled for May 17-20, 2012.

Are traffic signals at 30th Street and Pacific Avenue scheduled for renovation or replacement?

Cimino said the traffic light work on Pacific Avenue is already underway and will be finished first with 30th Street to follow. Both projects are scheduled to be completed by Dec. 8.

Councilwoman Mary Knight had asked a question concerning the availability of a webcam being installed on the Route 50 Bridge in order to observe the seals that come into town around October so that visitors to the town’s website could view the animal’s interaction.

Drewer said that the SHA has a camera installed on the bridge tender’s booth but it’s pointed towards traffic and only accessible to be viewed through the SHA’s website.

“I just wanted to see if that could be done this winter because these seals are just fascinating to everybody,” Knight said.

Cymek added that the police department has also requested a camera in that location facing into town for “obvious reasons”.

City Engineer Terry McGean asked SHA if Ocean City installed their own webcam on the bridge tender’s booth would the SHA be able to share their internet access.

Drewer responded that it may be possible but would have to investigate it further.

The timing of the St. Martins Neck Rd. signal at Route 90 may be a factor in causing major backups into Ocean City for vehicles exiting town during the hotel changeover on Saturdays from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Could SHA modify the signal timing for that intersection on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., giving far less green time for those exiting St. Martins Neck Road onto Route 90.

It was explained there are currently two timing programs during the summer and the program for Route 90 is already maxed out during those peak time frames. He said that if the first max of 60 seconds is reached, an additional time period will begin. It will increase 30 seconds until reaching 240 seconds.

Vehicle crossing and pedestrian crossing signal timing crossing on Coastal Highway and 94th Street was questioned.

Pillas explained that the concern was issued because of tractor trailers that are turning left onto Coastal Highway from 94th Street take up both turning lanes and there isn’t enough room or space for a car to turn at the same time.

“Somehow we need to reconfigure how we are going to send the northern traffic,” she said.

Jim Hall added that pedestrian traffic crossing the highway to and from the beach has also become a concern because there isn’t enough time for them to cross.

SHA said it will work with City Engineer Terry McGean this upcoming summer in reconfiguring the traffic light at that intersection.

McGean pointed out that there is a large misconception when it comes to pushing the button to signal pedestrian crossing.

“The misinterpretation over pushing the button is it makes the light change faster, it does not do that,” he said. “It gives you longer time to cross the street.”

One of the final items was an issue beyond the Corporate Limits Of Ocean City, and that is the construction of the parallel access road along Route 50 from Holly Grove Road in West Ocean City near the Wal-Mart and Home Depot shopping centers. The question was if the new traffic signal at Holly Grove Road being installed becomes active before the summer of 2012 does SHA anticipate the light currently serving Wal-Mart being removed.

The plan is to eliminate the left hand turn at the traffic light coming from Ocean City into Wal-Mart once the Holly Grove Rd. light becomes active.

“If that double left turn takes care of the traffic at Holly Grove Rd. we will eliminate the light at Wal-Mart,” he said. “If it doesn’t, then we will have to leave the light at Wal-Mart to take care of the extra traffic. It will take us probably a year after the signal at Holly Grove is operational to do the traffic study and to make sure it all works properly.”