WEST OCEAN CITY — The fatal hit-and-run accident on Route 50 last weekend sparked a renewed interest in improving pedestrian safety specifically and traffic safety in general throughout all of West Ocean City.
Even before the fatal hit-and-run accident last Friday that claimed the life of a local man, state and local officials had recognized the need for improved pedestrian and safety measures along the heavily traveled Route 50 and Route 611 corridors, and many State Highway Administration (SHA) projects are already at various points in the planning and implementation process.
Among the proposed changes are the possible installations of new traffic signals at known trouble spots, including the intersection of Route 50 and Elm Street where the fatal collision occurred last Friday, and at Route 611 and Sunset Avenue.
SHA Assistant District Engineer Ken Cimino has been working on a variety of proposals to improve pedestrian and traffic safety all over West Ocean City, the roads of which are shared with thousands of vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles and scooters on a typical summer day and throughout the year.
Cimino said this week one of West Ocean City hotspots that will likely see relief in the form of a new traffic signal is the intersection of Route 611, or Stephen Decatur Highway, and Sunset Ave. That has been a dangerous intersection for some time and frequently involves heavy waits for vehicles on Sunset Ave. trying to access southbound Route 611 toward Assateague Island, South Point and the local route to Berlin.
“We’ve finished the study of the Route 611 and Sunset Avenue intersection, and it indicates the need for a new traffic light there,” he said. “The plan is to install a new traffic signal at that intersection.”
Cimino said the plans in progress also call for a new traffic signal at the intersection of Route 50 and Elm Street, the site of last week’s traffic fatality. While it is uncertain if the lack of a traffic signal or pedestrian crosswalk contributed to the accident at this point, Cimino said the intersection was targeted for a possible traffic light even before the collision.
“The intent of the district is to get a traffic signal there,” he said. “We are still working with the Office of Traffic Safety and we will continue to have a conversation about a new light at the intersection. I’m hopeful it will happen in the future.”
Cimino said he had visited the site of last Friday’s fatal accident and had seen the preliminary Maryland State Police reports, but had not seen a final report about the details of the fatal collision.
“We’re currently waiting on a final report so we can determine if the pedestrian was struck in the roadway or if the vehicle left the roadway and hit the victim,” he said. “But we’ve been looking at this intersection for safety improvements even before this incident.”
Cimino said SHA is taking a blanket approach to traffic and pedestrian safety throughout the ever-growing, unincorporated West Ocean City area, and many different initiatives will likely come out of the various studies.
“We’re looking at all of it,” he said. “We have a lot of irons in the fire.”
Earlier this summer, Cimino and District Engineer Donnie Drewer told the Worcester County Commissioners SHA was starting a feasibility study for sidewalks in West Ocean City, particularly along the Route 50 corridor on the south side of the eastbound lanes. Cimino said this week that project is coming along with funding in place for a first phase.
“Funding is in place for sidewalks from Route 611 to the Harry Kelly Bridge,” he said.
SHA officials told the commissioners in June the sidewalk project would not need any funding support from the county, which would only be required to maintain the sidewalks after SHA installed them. While the funding is in place, there is no immediate timetable for the start of the construction phase of the project.