OCEAN CITY — The annual Seaside 10-mile race in Ocean City was approved for later next month, but not before some concerns were raised with the portion of the course along Coastal Highway in the midtown area.
The Mayor and Council had before them on Tuesday a consent agenda with requests for approval of various special events including the annual Seaside 10 and associated 5K race. The 10-mile race begins at the Inlet, travels up the Boardwalk to 27th Street where the course the runs along Baltimore Avenue to 33rd Street.
From there, the course heads north in the bus-bike lane along Coastal Highway to 68th Street, where runners will loop around the block to 69th Street and return south along the northbound bus lane and ultimately back to the finish line at the Inlet. The Seaside 10 has always followed a similar course and it approval as part of the consent agenda appeared to be a slam dunk on Tuesday before Councilman Dennis Dare raised concern about safety on a portion of the course that runs along Coastal Highway.
Dare voiced concern the hundreds of runners would be heading north in the bus lane until they reached 59th Street. In that area, the bus lane disappears and the traffic patterns shift to the right to accommodate the multiple turn lanes needed at the foot of the Route 90 bridge. Dare questioned if the course could be rerouted in such a way to avoid that dangerous stretch roughly between 59th and 62nd streets.
“Have we ever looked at an alternative to having the participants run along the northbound bus lane in the area of 59th Street?” he said. “The highway shifts in that area and there is no bike or bus lane there. It would be a lot safer for the public and much easier for our police department and the public works.”
Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell said the Seaside 10 course had always loosely followed the proposed route, although there still might be time for the race organizers to work with the police department and public works on an alternative with the event scheduled several weeks out on Oct. 26.
“I don’t know if that has ever been discussed,” she said. “I will open a dialogue with OC Tri-Running and the police department and public works to see if any changes can be made to the proposed course.”
Dare said with the lanes of traffic pinching over in the area of 59th Street, it created a public safety issue for race participants.
“Motorists merge over in that area and you have pedestrians and runners in that area where there is no more bus lane for a few blocks,” he said. “There is no barrier between the vehicles and the race participants.”
Dare said if it was too late at this point to change the course for an event scheduled for next month, maybe it could be reviewed prior to future Seaside 10 events.
“I don’t know if that can be reviewed in the coming weeks before this event next month,” he said. “If it can’t be reviewed at this late date for this year, can we at least work on that for next year?”
Council President Lloyd Martin said the elected officials could approve the event on Tuesday and still have time for the various departments and the race organizer to consider changes to the route.
“I think it could be done,” he said. “I don’t think this should hold up the approval tonight, but I think it could be reviewed and changes might be able to be made before the event.”
Councilman John Gehrig reiterated his prior concerns about some events on the consent agenda coming to the Mayor and Council just weeks before they are scheduled in some cases, a point he has made in prior meetings.
“I still don’t understand it,” he said. “Why are we approving events that are just two weeks away in some cases? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Martin said the special events that often wind up on the consent agenda are carefully vetted by the various departments before they come to the Mayor and Council. In most cases, any concerns have already been addressed and the elected officials still have time to raise their own concerns before approving the events.
“Every department reviews these events and that takes a lot of time,” he said. “Then, they bring them before us for final approval and any late changes as we see fit. If we want them to go back and reconsider the course, there is still time to do that.”
While the Seaside 10 is run partially on Coastal Highway, the associated 5K race is self-contained to the Boardwalk with a start at the Inlet and a turnaround at 17th Street before a return to the finish line at the south tram station. The event was originally run by the Town of Ocean City. In 2009, the town asked OC Tri-Running to produce the event with the town providing in-kind support.