State Transportation Officials Outline Worcester Project Funding

SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners and elected leaders this week commended state highway officials and Gov. Larry Hogan for their efforts to initiate and complete several infrastructure projects throughout the county.

On Tuesday, officials with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) briefed the commissioners on the draft Consolidated Transportation Program, which details a six-year capital budget for both major and minor transportation projects around the state.

Jim Ports, MDOT deputy secretary, said the Hogan administration is investing $14.7 billion into the transportation network for fiscal years 2018-2023. More than half of that funding is going to roads and bridges.

“We can’t fund everything, but we do our best to meet your priorities,” he said.

In Worcester County, $29.8 million will fund resurfacing projects while $7 million will fund a median fence, additional lighting and lane improvements along 2.7 miles of Coastal Highway in Ocean City.

The resort’s transit system will also receive $7.2 million in fiscal year 2018

In addition, Ports said MDOT SHA will soon complete the third phase of the Route 113 dualization project and begin the fourth and final phase of the project this fall.

Other projects on the priority list include the widening of Route 589 through Ocean Pines and the replacement of the Route 50 Bridge.

Commissioner Chip Bertino applauded MDOT SHA officials for their support, but questioned the timeline for a widening project along Route 589.

Bertino explained that summer traffic, the nearby casino and GPS systems direct more and more travelers through Ocean Pines each year, and said widening the roads along Route 589 would ease traffic congestion.

“The $14.7 billion, I don’t think we would need much of that to widen that road and get it fixed,” he said.

While he could not offer a timeline, Ports said new technology such as GPS is causing problems along several roadways.

“Quite frankly it’s a problem we deal with all around the state,” he said. “What you are seeing now is a new problem, so we don’t have an answer to all the traffic issues right now.”

Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw praised MDOT SHA officials for their efforts, but questioned ongoing projects at the south end of the county.

Lockfaw said a resurfacing project along the northbound lane of Route 13 has created traffic and safety concerns in Pocomoke. In addition to lengthy detours, he said milling work at intersections have created hazardous drop-offs.

“It seems like it’s dragging along,” he said.

Jay Meredith, MDOT SHA district 1 engineer, assured him the contractor would be on site next week to complete the work.

“We have put them on notice that they most go back to that project and finish the paving,” he said.

Commissioner Bud Church praised MDOT SHA officials for the promising report.

“I’ve been here for 15 years and I think today is the best report, the most positive report, I’ve heard in 15 years,” he said. “The things you’ve accomplished and the things you’ve told us about is amazing, particularly the money that is being spent.”

In addition to the commissioners, Senator Jim Mathias, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza and Delegate Charles Otto applauded the agency’s work.

“We’ve got a great team …,” Mathias said. “In the real context of time and money, we are getting it done.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.