OCEAN CITY — With the bids expected early this month, the second phase of the Boardwalk access control project is expected to begin in December and be completed before the start of the next summer season.
Ocean City wants to ramp up security in the form of vehicle access controls on the Boardwalk after several high-profile incidents across the country. Unauthorized vehicles are not allowed on the Boardwalk, but there are access points where a vehicle could reach the famed promenade and its large crowds.
Just last week, a couple was arrested after driving onto the Boardwalk at an opening at South Division Street following a hit-and-run downtown, an incident that could have had dire consequences if it had occurred at a different time of year and time of day. To that end, over a year ago resort officials began exploring a series of permanent and semi-permanent barrier systems, from gated access points that would allow police, fire and emergency services to access the Boardwalk, to heavy planters, bollards and other barriers.
The first phase was completed before this summer season as a stop-gap measure to protect the most sensitive areas including temporary gates and other barriers. The first phase was admittedly not aesthetically pleasing, but served a purpose until the more permanent second phase is installed.
Now, after months of planning, re-tweaking and redesigning, the next phase is out to bid and the project is expected to begin this winter and be completed by next May. City Engineer Terry McGean provided an update to the Mayor and Council on Tuesday.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “With the bids coming in the next two weeks, we anticipate starting construction in December and finishing the project no later than the middle of May.”
One of the key issues to resolve was the design of the barrier systems along street ends and at the Inlet parking lot. The first phase included the familiar Jersey barriers seen along highway projects, but they proved to be challenging with people sitting on them and leaving trash on them, for example. Early incarnations had decorative planters and even spheres, but those options proved to be cost prohibitive.
The final options included simple posts with horizontal beams running between them, or, in the alternative, posts with PVC-coated cables running between them. McGean said the latter option was chosen based on its effectiveness, appearance and cost-savings. The post-and-cable system comes in at around $100,000 less than what was estimated.
“The post-and-cable system is what we’re basing the bids on,” he said. “It has a nice, nautical feel to it and the coating should last and it should be easy to maintain. The problem with the Jersey barriers is people are sitting on them and leaving French fry cups and soda cups on them.”
Most of the post-and-cable barriers will be installed at the Inlet lot and along the various street ends where the pavement meets the Boardwalk surface, but it will come at the cost of some needed parking spaces in the downtown area. Nonetheless, the savings realized should offset the lost parking spaces.
“A lot of these are going in at the street ends,” he said. “We’re losing around 21 total parking spaces, three of which are paid spaces and 18 of which are currently free spaces. The good news is the railing selection and some other design refinements have reduced the cost estimate by approximately $100,000.”