OCEAN CITY — Impassioned pleas for a traffic-calming device or stronger enforcement in a densely-populated north-end community did not fall on deaf ears this week as resort officials begin to explore solutions to the problem.
During the public comment period of Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting, the first such meeting to be held in person at City Hall in months, several members of the Caine Woods community in north Ocean City came before the town’s elected officials seeking real solutions to an ongoing problem of reckless driving and speeding along some of the major thoroughfares. In particular, 142nd Street, and even 139th Street to some degree, have become a major access point to the resort from the rapidly growing Route 54 corridor.
Many motorists, including commercial vehicles, utilize 142nd Street to get from Route 54 in Delaware to Coastal Highway. Many are cutting through otherwise quiet residential areas, creating an often-dangerous situation for the year-round residents in the area. Caine Woods Community Association President Brian Shane led off the discussion on Monday.
“Our purpose here tonight is to talk about unsafe driving and speeding in our neighborhoods,” he said. “A lot of our residents are here to speak about unsafe driving, speeding, commercial vehicle speeding and going through stop signs. It’s enough of a problem that we wanted to come out and address it to you in person.”
Caine Woods resident Mary Taylor, who lives on 142nd Street, voiced real concern about the dangerous driving and the potential for a tragic accident.
“We’re here to find a resolution to a problem in our neighborhood of Caine Woods, particularly 142nd Street,” she said. “The demographics of our street have changed. We have more full-time residents, families with children, more senior citizens. Our residents are concerned about their own personal safety and damage to their property.”
Taylor urged the Mayor and Council to begin working on possible solutions.
“We have avoided walking, or riding bikes or even driving on the street to avoid the dangerous situation,” she said. “We wonder who will be the first to lose a loved one, a friend or neighbor. One life saved will be worth all of our efforts.”
Caine Woods resident John Moran agreed and said some mechanism for traffic calming could provide a solution.
“What I’d like to have happen is to have a task force at least look into some reasonable traffic calming measures,” he said. “The speeding has become extraordinary. I’m here tonight out of a great deal of frustration. It is the wild, wild west on 142nd Street.”
Moran characterized the 142nd Street corridor as a highway off-ramp through a residential neighborhood.
“One of the four entrances to Ocean City is the one I like to call the Route 54 access ramp, which is what 142nd Street has become,” he said. “We’re just east of that bend in the road and we’re afraid to pull out of our driveway. I would suggest two areas to look at and one is that bend in the roadway. I know the city has installed on a test basis rumble strips and they appear to work.”
Caine Woods resident Rich Hansen said the problems in Caine Woods are not limited to the 142nd Street corridor.
“The discussion about speed in those neighborhoods is not new,” he said. “It has come up before. Since you turned the stop signs around on Sinepuxent, that has become a major thoroughfare too. They’re all speeding through there and running the stop signs. I would hate to see someone killed, so something has to be done. Since I’ve lived there, I have witnessed six accidents on my corner alone, so it is real.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said, ironically, he drove through the 142nd Street corridor just last week.
“I was driving down 142nd Street last Thursday night around 8:30 p.m. and I was wondering why there were two locations where there were Ocean City police cars parked in dark areas,” he said. “Now, I realize why. They were up there because of some of the concerns that have been expressed to the Ocean City Police Department with regards to traffic safety in Caine Woods. The good news is they are aware of the problem.”
Meehan said City Engineer Terry McGean has worked with Shane and other concerned residents on a possible solution.
“City Engineer Terry McGean has met with Brian and that’s a good first step,” he said. “That can be a conduit with the council and the city to work with the community to see what can be done.”
Councilman Dennis Dare, a longtime Caine Woods resident, took it a step further and made a motion to have all involved town staff begin working on solutions immediately. The motion passed unanimously.
“I’m pretty familiar with the area,” he said. “We’ve addressed it before, but obviously not adequately, perhaps. I would like to defer this to staff and have the city engineer, the police department and public works develop a recommendation in a timely manner. If there are some actions that can be taken, they should be done as soon as possible.”