WEST OCEAN CITY – A shared-use path along Route 50 in West Ocean City is expected to bring safety and awareness to pedestrians and bicyclists.
On Thursday, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and Worcester County hosted a meeting at Ocean City Elementary School to discuss previous and proposed projects along Golf Course Road, Center Drive, Keyser Point Road and Route 50.
Pedestrian and bicycle safety have been longstanding issues in the area and the lack of road shoulders and an abundance of traffic have prompted residents and local officials to express their concerns.
Last year, the county installed four “Share the Road” signs at the four intersections and in June installed and updated 21 lights along Golf Course and Keyser Point roads and Center Drive.
MDOT SHA is now designing a 10-foot wide shared-use path along Route 50.
The path will begin on the eastbound side of Route 50 at Route 611 and will go to Inlet Isle Lane before crossing to the westbound side of Route 50 and ending at the bridge. The path will then connect to the sidewalk over the Harry Kelley Bridge.
James Meredith, MDOT SHA district 1 engineer, said a path already exists on the westbound side of Route 50 from Golf Course to Keyser Point roads, and added that an eastbound path will connect the projects and bolster the state and county’s desire for bike and pedestrian safety.
The state department will also increase the presence of the Walk Smart campaign in West Ocean City.
“Tying all of this in is very important,” he said, “so we are supporting their (the county’s) efforts.”
MDOT SHA’s Tanesha Hankerson said the objective of the path is to save lives.
“We try to be proactive and not reactive,” she said. “So when we see a need, when we see that residents are showing their concerns, we try to go ahead and start initiating different projects and things to help meet the needs of the people here.”
Hankerson explained the construction of a shared-use path will make motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians more aware of their surroundings.
“One life lost is one too many,” she said.
David Fairbank, a part-time resident who owns property on Golf Course Road, said he came to the meeting to express concerns about bicycle and pedestrian safety in the area.
“I’m here when the kids are walking up and down the street,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of close calls. One of these days it’s not going to be a close call.”
Joseph Tilghman, a West Ocean City resident who bikes in the area, agreed.
“I’m concerned with pedestrian and bicycle safety for my sake and for my family’s sake,” he said. “I enjoy bicycling in the area, but I’m also concerned for my safety and others’ safety when I drive early in the morning when it’s still dark.”
In addition to the lack of sidewalks and pathways, Tilghman expressed his frustration with the actions of motorists along the road.
“One of the problems here is impatient drivers crossing the double yellow line trying to get around bicyclists on the road,” he said.
While he acknowledged that signs installed by the county have helped, Tilghman said awareness for pedestrians and bicyclists have not improved.
“I wouldn’t say behavior has changed,” he said.
Meredith said the shared-use path is currently in the design process.
“Right now we aren’t quite sure when construction will begin,” he said, “but we will have a better handle on that probably in the spring.”