SNOW HILL – Local officials again stressed the importance of improvements to the Route 90 bridge at a meeting with state transportation officials this week.
The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday told representatives from the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) they wanted to see the dualization of Route 90 made a priority.
“I truly believe you can’t consider doing the Route 50 bridge until Route 90 is dualized,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said.
MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn and a variety of other state transportation officials visited Worcester County Tuesday as part of a statewide tour to discuss transportation priorities. He said that statewide, there were 816 transportation projects underway at a value of $8.8 billion.
In Worcester County, Rahn said the final phase of the Route 113 improvement project, a $74 million initiative, would widen four miles between Five Mile Branch Road and Public Landing Road. The work is set to be complete in fall of 2019.
In addition, repairs to the Route 50 bridge are underway, as are various resurfacing projects. Rahn said the State Highway Administration (SHA) was also adding lighting to the Route 13 bridge over the Pocomoke River. That will be complete this winter.
Other projects referenced included the addition of a second left turn lane from Route 50 eastbound to Route 589 northbound — set to be added in the spring — as well as a concept study for a roundabout at Route 589 and the Ocean Pines North Gate. SHA has partnered with Peninsula Regional Medical Center to improve that intersection.
Following the presentation, Mitrecic was quick to point out that Route 90 improvements hadn’t been mentioned.
“Right,” Rahn said. “What we are dealing with is that today we can identify in excess of $75 billion worth of needed improvements to our transportation system. And we have, as you see, $16 billion over a six-year period to apply to all of these needs. There is far more that we would very much like to do that we can’t and quite honestly there’s more that we can’t do than we can.”
Mitrecic said Worcester County and the Town of Ocean City had identified Route 90 as a priority. He said that the Route 90 bridge wouldn’t be able to handle additional traffic it would receive if the Route 50 bridge was closed for replacement.
“Route 90 is woefully unprepared to carry that total load of traffic coming in and out of Ocean City,” he said. “God forbid that there’s an emergency then it becomes that much more dire.”
Rahn said he understood that it was an important project.
“We will try to work on innovative ways to address it but we really are running into problems with cost,” he said. “We also know the longer we wait the more something’s going to cost.”
Ocean City Councilman Wayne Hartman echoed Mitrecic’s concerns.
“Doing Route 50 first we feel would be a real detriment to the citizens and visitors of Ocean City,” he said. “I encourage you to consider Route 90 as the main priority. I understand funding, but it’s a matter of replacing one project with another. We’re not asking for both at the same time.”
Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw told Rahn that at the south end of the county, he had concerns about farm equipment crossing the Route 13 bridge. He said SHA needed to add a sign notifying farmers of the bridge’s dimensions so they wouldn’t try to cross only to find themselves stuck.
“You need a sign or a warning board put up right now,” he said.
SHA officials acknowledged the concern and said it would be addressed.