OCEAN CITY — The future dualization of Route 90 has moved up Worcester County’s priority list for State Highway Administration (SHA) projects, Ocean City officials learned this week.
Worcester County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic, who represents Ocean City, led off his quarterly report with word the proposed dualization of Route 90 has moved up the county’s state highway project wish list. For years, Ocean City officials have expressed their desire for the county to reprioritize Route 90 improvements, including expanding the highway and its bridges from the current two lanes to four to ease access in and out of the resort for the public.
Formal letters have been sent expressing the town’s desire and at least twice a year the Mayor and Council make a face-to-face plea for the improvements. For years, the continued dualization of the Route 113 corridor has been at the top of county’s priority list for major SHA projects and that project continues to inch closer to the finish line with the fourth phase now underway.
Each year, the county forwards a priority list of sorts for major highway projects it hopes SHA will undertake next. In recent years, the apparent pecking order has been improvements to Route 589 in Ocean Pines, future improvements or replacement of the Route 50 Bridge and then dualization of Route 90. However, Mitrecic told the Mayor and Council on Monday improvements to the Route 90 corridor has moved up the priority list.
“The county has come around and will endorse the dualization of Route 90,” he said. “This represents a change. They didn’t want to go down that road before, but we are now. We are going to put that in our prioritization letter to the state.”
Mitrecic explained the project would come with a hefty price tag and the approval process for SHA projects across Maryland had changed.
“The system has changed for projects with an estimated cost of $5 million or above,” he said. “They have to be substantiated with numerous feasibility studies and checklists. This means major local dollars are going to be spent trying to prove major highway projects are warranted now.”
For Ocean City officials, Mitrecic’s message was welcomed news.
“That is just great news to know the county has endorsed that project,” said Councilman Dennis Dare. “Strategically, it’s so important to our town. We’ve seen the news this week of a bridge falling down and we have to be prepared. More than just from a convenience standpoint, this has to be done from a strategic standpoint as well.”
In recent years, the belief was the Route 50 Bridge would be replaced before any changes to Route 90, but Mitrecic said that isn’t the case anymore.
“Actually, the Route 50 bridge has fallen off the priority list a little bit,” he said. “I think the County Commissioners realize that nothing can be done to the Route 50 bridge until after we have four lanes at Route 90.”
He explained a prolonged closure of Route 50 while that bridge is replaced necessitates improving Route 90 first.
“The Route 50 Bridge when it’s finally done will take a year-and-a-half or more and whether or not it is open at all during that would be a question also,” he said. “These are things the County Commissioners are starting to realize.”