Berlin Planning Commission Talks Hopes With SHA

Berlin Planning Commission Talks Hopes With SHA
Members of the Berlin Planning Commission and representatives from the State Highway Administration are pictured at this week’s meeting. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Members of the town’s planning commission stressed the importance of sidewalks and bike paths in Berlin to State Highway Administration officials this week.

On Wednesday, the Berlin Planning Commission met with various representatives from Maryland’s State Highway Administration (SHA) to talk about accessibility in town. They agreed to increase communication moving forward to ensure that the town’s needs are met as more development occurs along local roads.

“We’re not opposed to going off script if there’s something the town needs to see,” said Dan Wilson, SHA’s regional engineer for access management.

Officials attended Wednesday’s meeting of the planning commission to discuss projects in Berlin and hear concerns from the town. Commission member Pete Cosby was quick to bring up the need for more sidewalks and bike paths. He said the area of Old Ocean City Boulevard between Atlantic General Hospital and Stephen Decatur High School was particularly bad.

“That could be a beautiful boulevard instead of the industrial wasteland it is now,” he said. “Whatever thought you all could put into that I know I’d appreciate it.”

Dallas Baker, assistant district engineer for SHA, said it would be helpful if the town developed a master transportation plan.

“Officials change,” he said. “A letter today does not mean the same thing it does two years from now as opposed to having something you all passed. Having something from you all at some point to say what it is you want on your roads helps us better coordinate with contractors.”

He added, however, that in the interim the town could certainly communicate in writing with SHA when each particular development project came up so that there was some agreement.

“It provides a unified front from the town and State Highway,” he said.

SHA representatives also brought up the town’s major intersections. Jana Potvin, assistant district engineer, said a traffic signal was not expected for the intersection of Route 818 and Route 50 despite increased development in the area.

“I believe it’ll be highly unlikely there’ll be a traffic signal there given the proximity of the railroad and the Route 113 ramp,” she said.

A signal is, however, in the works for the other end of Route 818, at the intersection of Route 113 and Germantown Road.

“It has been approved,” Potvin said. “Funding has not been issued but it has been approved.”

There was also discussion regarding Route 589.

“Route 589 is quickly becoming a higher priority within the county and it’s something that at State Highway we’re looking at,” said Brett Deane, assistant district engineer. “We’re not foolish enough to think that we’re going to get funding to dualize 589 from point to point.”

Instead, SHA is working on segments of the road.

“I don’t believe we’re going to get the mega project quite simply with the bridge we have there and all of the utilities,” Deane said. “Not to mention the fact that 589 does not have access controls currently and there’s about a billion access points on there. I don’t see a widening project from point to point. You’re going to see these isolated things.”

He said SHA met with the county last week to stress the importance of interparcel connectors along that road. He said it would be a tricky road to improve moving forward, and cited abandoned plans for a roundabout.

“Obviously Ocean Pines has heavy, heavy internal politics,” he said. “We had plans and had funding for a project at the north gate intersection with the locals there and there was enough dissension that we decided to pull back, punt, and look again.”

Deane and his peers praised the effectiveness of roundabouts. Deane said in Maryland there had never been a fatality at a roundabout.

“They don’t eliminate crashes but they eliminate the severity of crashes,” he said.

Town staff thanked SHA for attending Wednesday’s meeting and praised the agency’s willingness to work with the town.

“They might be our roads but it’s your town,” Deane said. “That’s why we’re here.”

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.