Council Rules Out Closing Off Popular Shortcut Alley

OCEAN CITY – An alleyway in Little Salisbury has raised safety concerns for residents in the area as vehicles have found it a convenient way to avoid Coastal Highway.

City Engineer Terry McGean has been researching modifications to Seabay Drive between 86th Street and Bering Road. The complaints are due to excess traffic cutting through the Seabay and the Wine Rack parking lot to get to the light at 85th Street.

More specifically, in May, Tim Covell of Seabay Drive made a complaint over speeding cars in the alley when his daughter had a close call and was almost hit by a car that had cut through the alley.

Covell initially asked for the alley to become one-way or install speed bumps or have the alley closed.

On June 9 in about one hour, McGean observed 19 cars traveling the alley, none of which originated from or stopped at a residence on the street. All northbound traffic came through the Wine Rack parking lot, and six out of the seven southbound vehicles entered the lot, two of those stopping at the convenience store and the rest cutting across to get to the light at 85th Street.

During the same time period, 16 pedestrians traveled the alley along with five bicyclists and two children on foot-push scooters.

“Given that I observed almost as much pedestrian traffic and children as vehicle traffic using a 16-foot wide alley with no sidewalk, I determined that pedestrian safety was a valid concern because 86th Street does not connect to the light at 85th, and because there is access to a light at Pacific Avenue, from a purely traffic engineering stand point there is virtually no reason not to close the south end of Seabay Drive at 86th Street,” McGean said. “That is not to say that is not an inconvenience or other reasons why you might want to keep it open.”

Once examining the street, McGean explained that since the roadway is a narrow alley that does not directly connect to a light to the south, making the alley one‐way northbound would seem to be a reasonable approach.

“The primary impact of this change will be on the residents of the alley itself. Since they will be unable to enter the alley from Little Salisbury, they will have to U-turn on Coastal Highway when approaching from the south,” McGean said.

A less disruptive alternative would be to close off the south entrance to the alley using flex posts allowing the residents to enter and exit from the light at Pacific Ave. and allow emergency vehicles and trash trucks to travel through the alley while still preventing the cut-through traffic of non‐residents.

Immediate action was also taken when McGean had two 15 mph signs installed on the street in attempt to slow vehicles down. McGean added that speed bumps are not considered a traffic calming measure.

“The problem with speed bumps is they are a danger to emergency response vehicles, and practically encourage vehicles with soft suspension to go faster over the bump to minimize the effect,” he said.

Councilman Brent Ashley said there has been overwhelming response from residents in that area who want the road to remain the way it is and made a motion to keep the alley way open.

Covell has been blamed for making the complaint for his own selfish reasons but he asserted it was purely done for his children’s safety.

“The last thing I want to do is inconvenience my neighbors,” he said.

Covell argues that the road is barely big enough for two cars to travel without side swiping each other.

“It is a very busy alley, and while it is convenient to travel … there is no way to get the kids out of harm’s way,” he said.

Covell furthered that 86th Street is 40 feet wide with four-foot wide sidewalks on each side, and 87th Street, or Bering Road, is also a 40-foot wide road also with sidewalks in each side.

“Seabay Drive is 16 feet wide and people say ‘you knew that when you bought the house’ and that is all well and good because I have actually trained my kids on how to navigate Seabay now,” he said, adding that visitors aren’t so lucky to know the traffic patterns of the alley and are in danger. “It is an accident waiting to happen.”

Council President Jim Hall asked if there is a possibility to install sidewalks, and McGean responded it is possible with some rearranging of drainage, but adding a four-foot sidewalk would also leave only 12 feet for two-way traffic.

As a number of residents were present to make their opposition known against Covell, a Little Salisbury resident and Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission member Chris Shanahan came to his side in support.

“I don’t think the pitch forks and the torches should come out so fast against our neighbors,” he said. “We have a great community there and I would like to see our civic association rally behind them and come up with a solution. We don’t want it closed, but we really need to do something because in the summer time we do have a problem with too many people using it.”

The council voted unanimously to keep the alley way open, followed by a motion made by Councilwoman Mary Knight to have McGean study the matter further for other solutions.