OCEAN CITY — The dune-style median fence project for Coastal Highway continues to move forward and will likely be completed by Memorial Day weekend of next year, State Highway Administration (SHA) officials told the Mayor and Council this week.
SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer and Assistant District Engineer Dallas Baker on Tuesday briefed the Mayor and Council on a variety of upcoming projects in the resort including the dune-style median fence down the center of Coastal Highway from Route 90 to the Convention Center. Earlier this year, the Mayor and Council approved the preliminary design for the fence in the middle of the median on Coastal Highway, which is expected to improve public safety in the known trouble spot by forcing pedestrians to cross the highway in the crosswalks at street ends and not dash across in between blocks.
The project, which is being designed, constructed and paid for by SHA, will cost an estimated $5.2 million, of which roughly $1.6 million will pay for fencing alone. The design features an undulating fence down the center median mimicking the iconic fences along the dunes in Ocean City. Also included in the project is an enhanced lighting pattern along the center median in Coastal Highway to improve visibility for motorists and pedestrians.
Drewer told resort officials on Tuesday the bid openings for the project could come as soon as next week with a notice to proceed with construction as soon as January. Drewer said the target completion date for the first phase of the center median fence is next May 17, but essentially promised it would be done by Memorial Day weekend.
“We’re hoping to be done by Memorial Day,” he said. “We don’t know how long it’s going to take to fabricate the fence. The plan is to have bases built into the new median so we’ll be out of there. Then, we could come back at night and install the fence without impeding traffic. It should be all done by Memorial Day.”
From the beginning, resort officials have been intricately involved in the design process for a project that will almost certainly change the look and dynamics along the resort’s main thoroughfare. The existing brick and landscaped median will be completely replaced with the new median fence and appropriate landscaping.
The long-term plan is construct the median fence from one end of the town to the other beginning with the first phase between Route 90 and the convention center, which is an area statistically with the most pedestrian-vehicle collisions. The second phase is proposed for Convention Center Drive south to around 26th Street, with a third phase running from 26th Street to 9th Street.
After that, the plan is to start working north from Route 90 to the Delaware line. However, Drewer said funding and other issues would largely determine the timetable for the complete project moving forward.
“The next phase is undetermined,” he said. “We would like to see how the first phase works, then we’ll start doing other sections in the winter months going forward. Let’s review how this first section works and go from there.”
However, Council Secretary Mary Knight questioned if the momentum could be kept up to do additional sections in ensuing years.
“If we review it in September, would we have a timetable to do the next phase during the following offseason?” she said. “I would hope that would happen. It’s going to be a success and I would hate for another year to go by without doing the next section.”
Councilman Dennis Dare said he hoped if the next section of median fencing wasn’t approved for the following offseason, he hoped SHA would at least keep going forward with the improved lighting aspect of the project.
“There are two elements of the design,” he said. “The fence prohibits jaywalking, but just as important is the improved lighting element and I would hate to see that not moving forward. The street lighting on Coastal Highway is poor. I hope that there is at least funding for the lighting in the next phase and we don’t have to wait another year for that.”