OCEAN CITY — Extending the dune-style fence down the center median of Coastal Highway is not in the state’s immediate plans, despite the apparent success of the original section, resort officials learned this week.
State Highway Administration (SHA) officials this week briefed the Mayor and Council on a variety of projects, and the discussion came around to the possibility of extending the median fence that runs the center of Coastal Highway from 62nd Street to the convention center.
The intent of the median fence, which roughly mimics the design of the omnipresent dune fences around the beaches in Ocean City, was to improve safety by forcing pedestrians to cross the highway at marked crosswalks rather than dash across mid-block. Statistically and anecdotally, the pilot section has achieved the desired results with fewer pedestrian collisions on that area.
The jury is still out for many on the aesthetic value of the median fence, but few could argue it has not improved pedestrian safety in that notoriously troublesome area of the resort. When the project was first presented years ago, resort officials expressed a desire to keep extending the median fence in phases, first southward to 9th Street and eventually northward to the Delaware line.
Those future phases were based on the success of the initial section, and secondly, the availability of state funding to continue the project. SHA District Engineer Jay Meredith said this week the former has been proven, but the latter will likely hold up any future median fence expansion.
“It’s not even in the planning stage,” he said. “That fence has proven its worth and it can be expanded in the future, but we’re in a tight funding cycle right now. That area was chosen because we had problems there.”
Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out SHA’s policy for future funding has been contingent on collecting three years of data.
“We have been told you have to look at the statistics for three years,” he said. “We know that fence has been successful. I guess we just have to wait to see how the statistics bear out for three years.”
In the meantime, Dare pressed SHA officials to at least consider moving forward with enhanced lighting in the median in other areas until funding becomes available to extend the median fence. As part of the initial phase from 62nd Street to the convention center, enhanced LED lighting was added in the center median, casting a broad swath of light from sidewalk to sidewalk, eliminating in some cases the need for the old cobra-style street lights along the sidewalks.
During the briefing with SHA officials on Tuesday, Dare questioned if, short of moving forward with the next phases of the median fence, if the state would consider at least continuing to improve the lighting along Coastal Highway.
“Enhancing the center median lighting from say 9th Street to 27th Street could be a fairly inexpensive thing to do,” he said. “I guess if we’re going to get a half a loaf of bread, I’d like that half a loaf to be improved lighting along the median.”
SHA officials explained they would explore the possibility of enhanced LED lighting in areas outside the original pilot area for the median fence.