OCEAN CITY — It took over a year, but as predicted, a suspected drunk-driver crashed into the median near the convention center last weekend and took out a large section of the fence.
In May 2018, the State Highway Administration (SHA) completed a much-debated project to install a decorative dune-style fence down the center median of Coastal Highway along with enhanced LED lighting from Convention Center Drive to 62nd Street. The intent of the median fence was to force pedestrians to cross the highway at marked crosswalks and not dash across between blocks.
During the planning and design phase, detractors said some pedestrians would still run across mid-block anyway and attempt to go over or under the median fence and that has happened on occasion. Other detractors predicted a vehicle would eventually collide with the fence and take out a large section of it.
Anticipating such a collision, the median fence was designed in such a way that if a vehicle collided with it, just small sections would be damaged or destroyed without taking out an entire block.
During the construction phase, SHA built replacement sections that could easily be installed in the event a section was damaged or destroyed. SHA officials this week confirmed they had a section of new fence ready to install in the damaged area, although it remained blocked with barrels and yellow tape as of mid-week.
Around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, an Ocean City Police Department officer was dispatched to the area of 40th Street and Coastal Highway for a reported vehicle collision involving property damage. According to police reports, the officer arrived and discovered a vehicle had left the roadway, collided with the fence and came to rest on the median.
The driver, identified as Raul Reyes-Perez, 23, of Salisbury, was standing outside the vehicle when police arrived. Another OCPD officer arrived and reported seeing Reyes-Perez stopped at the intersection at 45th Street. When the light turned green, Reyes-Perez drove south on Coastal Highway, drifted far to the right to the point he nearly struck the curb on the far right side.
Reyes-Perez then jerked the vehicle abruptly back to the left across all lanes of Coastal Highway before striking the median and taking out a section of fence. According to police reports, the front of the vehicle went airborne, knocking down a section of the fence and coming to rest on the median.
According to police reports, Reyes-Perez exhibited signs of intoxication. He did not complete field sobriety tests to the officer’s satisfaction and was ultimately arrested and charged with driving under the influence, driving while impaired and related traffic violations. It’s important to note while the primary goal of the median fence was to encourage, or even force, pedestrians to cross the highway at marked crosswalks, in this particular case it proved to have a secondary function of preventing a vehicle from possibly crossing the median into oncoming traffic on the other side.