OCEAN CITY — Two temporary bridge closures in separate incidents days apart in the last week highlighted the need to expedite the future dualization of the Route 90 corridor.
For years, Ocean City officials have expressed their desire to see 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, but perhaps more importantly for emergency services including fire apparatus and ambulances, for example. For years, State Highway Administration (SHA) officials have listened to and acknowledged the town’s pleas to expedite the dualization of the Route 90 corridor and it remains near the top of Worcester County’s priority list for state highway projects, but it appears no closer to becoming a reality.
Last Thursday afternoon, the Route 50 drawbridge was stuck in the open position, briefly snarling traffic along the busy access route to the resort. A temporary fix quickly got the bridge reopened, and SHA crews and their contractors came back overnight on Monday to make more permanent repairs.
On Tuesday, a serious multi-vehicle collision on Route 90 between Routes 589 and 113 closed the busy corridor in both directions for about two hours. Taken individually, neither incident severely hamstrung the flow of traffic into the resort.
However, if they had happened simultaneously, which is a distinct possibility given recent events, the results could have been disastrous amid one of the busiest weeks of the summer season. Ocean City officials for years have said dualizing Route 90 would improve traffic flow and improve public safety in times of emergencies or evacuations.
Communications Director Jessica Waters said last week’s brief closure of the Route 50 drawbridge followed just days later by the Tuesday incident that closed Route 90 in both directions further illustrates the need to expedite that process.
“The dualization of Route 90 remains a top priority for the Mayor and Council for several reasons, but first and foremost is safety,” she said. “As we have seen time and time again, there is a serious risk for our first-responders when we lose any part of the roadway as it is a primary entrance and exit for Ocean City. Further, the highway itself, which is a two-lane highway, is inherently dangerous and can result in severe head-on collisions and it has.”
Formal letters have been sent expressing the town’s desire to have the proposed Route 90 dualization moved up the priority list for Worcester County and at least twice a year, the Mayor and Council make a face-to-face plea for the improvements.