Short-Term Fixes Eyed To Slow North OC Street Speeds

OCEAN CITY — Impassioned pleas for some kind of traffic-calming or stronger enforcement in a densely-populated north-end neighborhood have not fallen on deaf ears as city officials this week announced a series of immediate and potential long-term solutions.

In October, members of the Caine Wood Community Association came before the Mayor and Council 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 year-round residents in the area. City Engineer Terry McGean and staff have met with Caine Woods community members to hear their concerns and begin to take steps to alleviate some of the traffic concerns in the neighborhood.

On Tuesday, McGean briefed the Mayor and Council on some of the actions that are being undertaken immediately, along with potential long-term solutions. Before getting into the details specific to the Caine Woods problem, McGean presented a primer on the various traffic-calming devices at the town’s disposal.

For example, increased enforcement is one of the easiest to achieve and already the Ocean City Police Department has expanded its presence along 142nd Street with increased stationary patrol. In addition, electronic “Your Speed” signs have become a prominent feature along the corridor.

McGean also provided detailed information on the difference between speed bumps and speed humps. For example, speed bumps are generally narrow and taller and are not recommended for traffic-calming along heavily-traveled corridors. Speed humps are much wider and far less steep and can provide effective traffic-calming along busy corridors in residential areas.

“Speed bumps and speed humps are two very different things,” he said. “Speed humps can be very effective. They result in a 20% reduction in speed in most cases.”

McGean outlined other potential traffic-calming measures including a raised crosswalk, raised intersections, increased signage and bump-outs, among others. He outlined a standard measure of speed on a roadway and the criteria by which traffic-calming measures are based. For example, the 85th percentile for speed is an example of a criteria by which traffic-calming is measured.

The speed limit on 142nd Street is 25 mph and the 85th percentile speed on the corridor was 32 mph, or seven mph over the posted speed limit, according to recent data collection. The average recorded speed was 27 mph and the highest recorded speed was 65 mph. In a survey conducted from mid-October through the beginning of November, the average daily traffic volume on 142nd Street was 1,926 per day with a peak volume of 3,087 on a Saturday during the survey period.

McGean said the survey was conducted in the fall and the volume along the corridor was predicted to be double during the summer season. Similarly, the average speed along the corridor is expected to increase in kind during the summer.

“It is likely that speeds will be slightly higher with the increased traffic volumes in the summer,” he said. “Speeding on this street would be considered borderline excessive.”

Similar data was presented for 139th Street, which is also a major east-west corridor through the community. In recent year, traffic-calming on both corridors has improved with a median installed along with other devices such as bump-outs. Still, the problems on 142nd Street persist. Another unique issue with 142nd Street is a pronounced curve in the roadway, which only exacerbates the speeding issue. McGean told the Mayor and Council short-term fixes are already underway and longer-term solutions could be in the offing.

For example, the aforementioned increase in enforcement is already underway. In addition, the crosswalks at Tunnel Avenue have been restriped and “Truck Prohibited” signs have been added at the west end of 142nd Street. A “Curve Warning” sign has been ordered along with larger stop signs. Also, installing milled rumble strips at each end of the curve in the road is planned for this winter.

McGean said those short-term fixes will be monitored and more data will be collected throughout next summer to determine if they are achieving the desired results, or if greater, and potentially more expensive, measures are needed in the future such as redesigning the corridors or reconfiguring their intersection. In either case, Councilman Tony DeLuca said the time is now to make the appropriate changes.

“How long have we been talking about 142nd Street?” he said. “I think we need to consider speed humps. Everybody knows it’s the fourth entrance into Ocean City and it goes right through a residential neighborhood.”

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.