SHA Continues To Seek 589 Intersection Solutions; Developer Thinks OPA Board Responsible For Problems

SHA Continues To Seek 589 Intersection Solutions; Developer Thinks OPA Board Responsible For Problems
Safety concerns remain over the entrance to the Ocean Pines Health Pavilion off Route 589. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

OCEAN PINES – State Highway Administration officials continue to consider a roundabout at the Ocean Pines north gate as they look for a solution to Route 589 traffic concerns.

The Worcester County Commissioners this week advised the State Highway Administration (SHA) of traffic safety issues at the entrance to the Ocean Pines Health Pavilion on Route 589. SHA District Engineer James Meredith said in a statement Thursday the agency was exploring potential solutions, including a roundabout at the nearby north gate to Ocean Pines.

“Safety is our top priority,” Meredith said. “We’ve been having ongoing discussions with Worcester County and the Peninsula Regional Medical Center about making MD 589 safer.”

At the request of the commissioners, Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins advised SHA in a July 14 letter of traffic safety issues related to the Ocean Pines Health Pavilion.

“Road improvements made through the years to the campus’ entrance and egress have not fully addressed the traffic flow challenges and safety issues first identified by the State Highway Administration and the developer at the inception of the project,” the letter reads. “Through the years multiple concerns have been raised but because of a variety of factors, a resolution remains elusive. As a result, motorists continue to ignore roadway signage and barriers, making illegal U-turns or left turns to access southbound Route 589 when leaving the Pavilion.”

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Higgins wrote that the commissioners were aware a solution would require the cooperation of state private property owners as well as the Ocean Pines Association.

“The commissioners are prepared to facilitate necessary action to help improve the safety of this area,” the letter said. “It is their hope a solution amenable to all parties can be found.”

Meredith said Thursday discussions about Route 589 were ongoing.

“Our engineers are considering a number of options for the area, including a roundabout at the Ocean Pines north gate,” he said. “We look forward to finding a solution that benefits patients, health care workers, residents and motorists in the area.”

Last summer, SHA hosted an input session in Ocean Pines regarding a proposed roundabout at the north gate. Dozens of residents attended to voice their objections. Prior to that, in 2016, Ocean Pines Health Pavilion developer Palmer Gillis asked the Ocean Pines Association board of directors to consider an access road linking the complex to Ocean Parkway. Residents objected vehemently to the proposal.

“I’ve had my hand slapped multiple times,” Gillis said this week, adding that he’d even offered early on to build a bridge and annex the complex into Ocean Pines. “I get tired of trying.”

Gillis said he’d been reaching out to the various Ocean Pines Association boards for the past 12 years with potential solutions to traffic generated by the medical complex.

“I bring money and solutions and they don’t want to hear it,” he said.

Gillis said SHA was not at fault for any access issues at the medical complex.

“In my opinion the concerns are being directed to the wrong people…,” he said. “In my opinion it rests on the board of Ocean Pines.”

Doug Parks, president of the board, said the board hadn’t received any specific complaints related to the medical complex. He acknowledged traffic was heavy at the north gate but said it was more of a volume issue than a safety issue.

“I think we’re okay for right now,” he said.

He said the board hadn’t had any discussions about the proposed roundabout since SHA’s input meeting last summer. He said it was likely that the pandemic would impact budgets and schedules but that the board would weigh in on any proposed changes when they were presented.

“We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude but we’ll certainly have an opinion if it opens back up,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.