West OC Eyes Safety Upgrades

BERLIN — The West Ocean City Association (WOCA) is looking to partner with state agencies this summer to improve pedestrian safety. While many of their requests have been repeated and rejected for years, State Highway Association (SHA) representatives confirmed that there is a chance one of West Ocean City’s most heavily walked roads will be seeing some safety improvements this year.

“State Highway Administration is already ahead of the curve on this,” said Assistant District Engineer for Traffic Ken Cimino.

According to Cimino, SHA began studying the intersection of Route 50 and Golf Course Rd in West Ocean City last summer. Since that time, officials have submitted an initial design request to the Office of Traffic Safety in Baltimore.

“I expect to see approval or rejection within 60 days,” said Cimino.

The request recommends the installation of crosswalks, curb ramps and countdown pedestrian signals where Gulf Course Rd meets Route 50.

“At this intersection, it is just a matter of foot traffic that warrants the installation of pedestrian signals,” Cimino said.

County Commission President Bud Church confirmed that the WOCA is interested in pursuing pedestrian safety improvements, especially to intersections like Route 50 and Golf Course Rd.

“They want four-way stops at several intersections and they want sidewalks,” he said.

Besides the upgrades Cimino mentioned, the installation of more sidewalks in the area, including along Golf Course Rd, are popular ideas.

“They are needed, desperately needed, in West Ocean City,” said Church.

However, those sidewalks have been perennial concerns for at least the last 10 years and unlikely to see any resolution this year, according to Church.

“It comes up every year,” he said.

Because Golf Course Rd is county owned, it falls to the County Commission to maintain it or seek the installation of sidewalks. But Church pointed out that even if the commission had the desire, they do not have the ability.

“There’s no money,” he said.

Additionally, Church said that even if money could be found, there simply isn’t space for sidewalks due to the distance that easements stretch out from private property into the road.

“It’s privately owned land,” he said, adding that he doubted many property owners along Golf Course Rd could be convinced to donate their easements to the county.

While sidewalks may be unlikely, Cimino said that the SHA will be performing an audit on roads stretching from Route 611 to the Harry Kelley Memorial Bridge. The audit will be conducted sometime after July 1 and will focus on the potential for adding connections between existing sidewalks.

Cimino described that audit as “an in-house thing” where non-local SHA engineers will be brought in to evaluate infrastructure in Worcester County.

While WOCA sent out its letter asking for pedestrian management improvements on May 24, several days prior to the first of three serious pedestrian incidents in Ocean City, it is easy to draw a parallel between the accidents and the desire for upgrades to traffic safety. Of the three cases, two have resulted in fatalities, while one has left a man in critical condition. Crosswalks were not used in each of the incidents.

“I don’t know what else they can do,” said Church. “People need to take responsibility for themselves.”

The next WOCA meeting is scheduled for Thursday and Church confirmed that a SHA representative has been requested to attend to discuss the situation with the association.