OCEAN CITY — There will not be a new traffic signal at 3rd Street to accommodate the new Boardwalk tram configuration, but it appears a compromise hybrid solution is in the offing.
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 a new Boardwalk tram pattern 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 that, among other things, will house the Boardwalk tram operation. As a result, each day throughout the summer, the trams will 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.
Earlier this winter, several options were on the table including a firehouse-style signal that would blink yellow and turn red allowing the trams to cross Philadelphia Avenue as needed. Another option considered was a HAWK pedestrian hybrid signal similar to the current signals at Seacrets at 49th Street and at the Clarion uptown. During Tuesday’s Transportation Committee meeting, City Engineer Terry McGean said neither of those options were approved by the State Highway Administration (SHA) and instead adjustments will be made to the existing traffic signals in the area.
“The last option we were trying to explore was a signal similar to a firehouse signal that would change for pedestrians and the trams only, but the state shut down that idea,” he said. “The alternative is to adjust the signals at 5th Street and 2nd Street. It’s not ideal, but that’s what they’re willing to do.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said that option would have to do for now.
“I think that’s the best-case scenario for this season under the circumstances,” he said. “We can work with that situation for this season and re-evaluate it to come up with a better solution for next season.”