Route 50 Drawbridge Gates Damaged By Winds; Lane Closures, Flooding Make Monday Night Traffic A Nightmare

OCEAN CITY — The severe storm that popped up unexpectedly in and around the resort area late Monday afternoon created a domino-effect of sorts around the downtown area that snarled traffic well into Monday evening.

The late Monday afternoon storm included several inches of rain in a short amount of time, a tornado warning, hail and flash flooding in and around the downtown area prone to high water during even modest weather events. Ocean City officials had already cut off traffic to south of the Route 50 Bridge when an accident occurred at the base of the span, further complicating the heavy volume of traffic pouring into the resort. Route 50 eastbound was at a standstill and, anecdotally, a typical 10-minute run from West Ocean City into Ocean City turned into an hour.

Complicating the issue even further was damage caused to the two drawbridge gates on the westbound side of the bridge. State Highway Administration officials said on Monday the two drop-down gates on the westbound side of the bridge that prevent traffic from crossing when the drawbridge is open were snapped off by heavy winds during the sudden Monday afternoon storm and needed to be repaired, causing SHA to close a portion of the westbound lanes on the bridge.

The result was a major traffic jam that extended back into Ocean City for traffic leaving the resort and a backup on the eastbound side that snarled traffic in West Ocean City and likely backed up near Berlin at the height of the incidents.

SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said on Tuesday high winds damaged two of the gates on the Route 50 Bridge sometime between 5 p.m. and 5:20 p.m. SHA crews were sent out to remove the downed gates from the roadway. One gate was replaced and the other was temporarily repaired so the bridge could be raised safely.

During the quick repair job, the northern lane of the westbound section of the bridge was closed, exacerbating the backups on the eastbound side of the span caused by an accident and the road closures due to flooding. In addition, there was some fencing along the bridge that was hanging loose as well as a couple of damaged rails that had to be removed to ensure vehicle and pedestrian safety. SHA crews were back on the bridge on Tuesday completing repairs to the damaged gates.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.