Traffic Signal Alternatives Proposed For OC Intersection

OCEAN CITY — Getting a permanent traffic signal at 3rd Street and Philadelphia Avenue remains challenging, but there could be some alternatives available, resort officials learned this week.

At different times over the last year or so, the town of Ocean City has asked the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to install a traffic signal at 3rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, but the request has gained little traction. Each time the town has made a formal request, MDOT officials have listened carefully, but has said traffic studies have shown a new signal at the intersection is not warranted.

Complicating the issue is the new Boardwalk tram pattern which will be established in the upcoming season. Late last year, the Public Works Department unveiled its new state-of-the-art facility at St. Louis Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets which, among other things, will house the Boardwalk tram operation. As a result, each day throughout the summer, the trams will have cross Philadelphia Avenue at 3rd Street to reach the Boardwalk and to return to the public works facility each night.

Moving the tram operation has escalated the importance of a new traffic signal at 3rd Street. Even before the new facility on St. Louis Avenue, however, resort officials suggested the new signal was warranted because traffic often stacks up on the side streets in the downtown area.

During Tuesday’s work session, it was learned the city is still working with State Highway Administration (SHA) Director Greg Slater on a permanent traffic signal at 3rd Street. In the meantime, city officials have been working with the private-sector Traffic Group on alternatives to solve the tram issue in the short term.

“We’re looking at a couple of options for the 3rd Street intersection,” said City Engineer Terry McGean. “We’re still looking to get a permanent signal to allow the trams to get through that intersection, but it didn’t qualify 100% for the allocation of resources. We’re still working on that.”

In the meantime, two short-term solutions have been floated. One is a hybrid flashing signal similar to the signals used for firehouse access. That option would cost around $60,000.

“It would be a signal similar to those we have at the fire station access points,” said McGean. “When the trams came through at certain times of the day, it would go from flashing to red to stop traffic. That would be the only time it would be activated.”

McGean explained another short-term option on the table is a HAWK pedestrian hybrid signal, which could be activated to stop traffic at certain high-pedestrian volume times of day. The cost of that option would be around $130,000, although because it has pedestrian safety value, SHA could be on the hook for 50% of the expense.

“The HAWK signal is a little more sophisticated,” said McGean. “It would allow the trams to cross and for pedestrians to cross. It would be similar to the signals we have at Seacrets at 49th Street and at the Clarion. It’s about double the cost of the other option, but we would ask SHA to fund half and we would fund the other half. It would stop traffic much less frequently than a full-blown traffic signal.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said he would continue to work with MDOT and SHA officials on the permanent signal at 3rd Street. Meehan said the other two options presented opportunities to facilitate the tram route while gaining some pedestrian crossing measures.

“I think that either of these options would facilitate what we need there,” he said. “Either one would make that intersection a whole lot safer.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.