SNOW HILL – The Town of Ocean City came before the Worcester County Commissioners and state highway officials this week to make a case for prioritizing the dualization of Route 90.
On Tuesday, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and other resort officials appeared before the commissioners following an annual visit from the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to request the dualization of Route 90 be placed at the top of the county’s priority list.
For years, Ocean City officials have advocated for expanding the highway and its bridges from two lanes to four to facilitate the flow of traffic both entering and exiting the resort.
Meehan said the dualization would address public safety concerns along Route 90.
“It’s a two-lane highway, which is inherently dangerous and can result in severe head-on collisions and it has,” he said. “An accident closes the roadway in both directions and completely shuts off access to Ocean City and Route 589 and other areas on Route 90 …”
Meehan also told the commissioners traffic along the two-lane road hinders emergency vehicles transporting individuals to nearby hospitals.
Ocean City Fire Department Chief Chris Larmore noted an increase in EMS transports from the resort and called for the dualization of Route 90.
“The town commissioned a study in 2001 that predicted a 30 percent increase in transports in 10 years, with an additional 25 percent in the following 10 years,” he said. “We’ve actually exceeded that.”
Larmore told commissioners transport times to hospitals have declined as a result of Route 90 traffic.
Meehan added that Route 90 also plays a critical role during emergency evacuations, particularly when flooding impedes Route 50 and Delaware access points.
“That leaves one road, a two-lane road, and that’s Route 90,” he said. “When you have 300,000 people in town … that is a challenge.”
Ocean City Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald told commissioners that traffic along Route 90 would directly impact public safety.
“If anything is critical at this point in time, it’s considering the planning and funding of the dualization of Route 90,” he said. “It’s imperative.”
Meehan said the state has already acquired the right-of-way necessary for dualization when the Route 90 Bridge was constructed in the 1970s.
“Before it was there, they recognized that at some point in time this roadway would have to be dualized,” he said.
While the dualization of Route 113 – which has used much of the state funding for highway projects in Worcester County in recent years – is nearing the finish line, other projects on the priority list include the widening of Route 589 through Ocean Pines and the Route 50 Bridge replacement.
Meehan asked that the Route 90 dualization project be considered a top priority, which would require the cooperation of county officials to accomplish.
“We see what you have done with (Route) 113,” he said. “We see now an opportunity to reprioritize … It’s important. I think we all recognize that. We are here today to emphasize that.”
Delegate Mary Beth Carozza told commissioners the final phases of the Route 113 dualization have left the county at a “crossroads” for future projects.
“I pledge to work with you and ask for the continued cooperation with MDOT and SHA (State Highway Administration) as we work through our local priorities so we can make the best decisions based on safety and of course the most cost effective way to do these projects,” she said.