OCEAN CITY — With the dune-style median fence project now in full swing, resort officials heard a briefing on some aspects of the project last week, including the enhanced lighting system along Coastal Highway, the anticipated completion schedule and the potential for future phases in out years.
State Highway Administration (SHA) officials updated the Mayor and Council last week on a wide variety of projects ongoing or proposed in the resort including the Coastal Highway median enhancement project that will ultimately include a fence down the center median, improved overhead lighting in the median and other public safety features. After over a year of planning, engineering and contract bidding, the project got underway last week with a first phase from Route 90 to Convention Center Drive.
The median fence is expected to improve public safety in a known trouble spot section of Coastal Highway that has historically seen the most pedestrian-vehicle collisions. The dune-style fence is expected to force pedestrians to cross Coastal Highway at marked crosswalks at street ends and not dash across between blocks.
SHA District Engineer Jay Meredith last Tuesday laid out the proposed timetable for the project. He said the enhanced, overhead LED lighting in the median should be completed by December or early January. The actual median fence installation is expected to be completed in February with the final phase, the milling and repaving of that section of Coastal Highway completed in the spring ahead of the summer season.
With the overhead LED lighting in the median completed first, resort officials asked Meredith if the enhanced lighting would become operational before the completion of the entire project. Meredith said the new lighting system would be tested and will likely be utilized before the rest of the project is completed. The overhead LED lighting is expected to cast a broad amount of light over the entire corridor from sidewalk to sidewalk, eliminating the need for the existing cobra-style street lights along the sidewalks in the project area, according to Public Works Director Hal Adkins.
“The ultimate goal is to eliminate the cobra-head lighting on the sides of the highway,” he said. “My position would be wait until they are finished and see how it works. Then, we can either remove the older lighting on the side or petition Delmarva Power to install updated LED lighting.”
Councilman Wayne Hartman advised the existing lighting remain in place even after the new center median lighting system is installed.
“You can never have too much lighting,” he said. “The existing lighting is very beneficial to the pedestrians on the sidewalk, which is kind of the point of this whole project.”
For his part, Meredith said the new center median lighting will likely be utilized as soon as it is installed. He said it can be tested and adjusted to ensure it has the coverage it is intended to have. In addition, the new lighting can help crews working in other phases of the project.
“As soon as we get it installed and operational, we’re going to turn it on,” he said. “We are not going to wait until the end of the entire project.”
The milling and repaving phase of the project will begin in the spring, but Adkins said SHA and the private contractor are cognizant of some of the special events including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“Based on the scope of this project, we acknowledge that we have a few events such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade that will be a challenge,” he said. “As we get closer to that, they will take a look at the schedule and minimize the impact. That has not been forgotten.”
SHA Assistant District Engineer Brent Deane reported the contractor was well aware of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and its importance to the resort at that time of year.
“The hope is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade will fall as usual,” he said. “We will not be milling in that area at that time and will not be running the parade on a milled section.”
The long-term plan is to construct the median fence from one end of the town to the other. The second phase is tentatively proposed for the section from the convention center south to around 26th Street. A third phase would run from 26th Street south to 9th Street. After that, the plan is to start working north from Route 90 to the Delaware line.
However, Meredith said SHA would not commit early to future phases without seeing if the first phase achieved the desired results.
“We would like to get this section done first,” he said. “Then we’ll evaluate it and see how it works before we move forward with future phases. If people are jumping over it or it doesn’t work, we’ll have to re-evaluate it. Public safety is paramount for us.”
Mayor Rick Meehan urged SHA officials to at least start planning for future phases.
“We want to make sure there is a continuation of the project,” he said. “Sometimes when there is a break in the chain, it doesn’t reconnect. We just don’t want to see it set back another three or four years.”