OC Traffic Calming Plan Approved

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Mayor and Council signed off on a point-based traffic-calming policy for certain streets in town this week plagued by speeding and reckless driving after a few adjustments were made to the plan presented in December.

In December, City Engineer Terry McGean outlined for the Mayor and Council some short-term and long-term solutions for an ongoing problem of speeding and reckless driving on some of the main streets in the Caine Woods community, including 142nd Street and 139th Street in particular. There are varying degrees of traffic-calming, including non-physical changes such as increased enforcement, public outreach and more signage.

There are also rather passive traffic-calming measures available such as speed humps, curb bump-outs and rumble strips, for example. Finally, there are more active, and likely far more expensive, traffic-calming measures such as traffic circles, roundabouts, raised crosswalks, and even, in some cases rerouting traffic or making certain streets one-way, for example.

In the wake of the issues raised in Caine Woods, McGean said he began exploring a formal policy to evaluate the streets in Ocean City when similar problems arise and identify just what level of traffic-calming is needed to rectify the situation. He presented the plan in December and, after hearing some of the council’s questions and concerns, set out to tweak the proposal.

The plan includes a point-based system in which a street is given points on various prevailing traffic issues. The level of traffic-calming needed in commensurate with the number of points scored in the formula. Points would be assigned to a street based on a variety of factors, including the 85th percentile average speed.

For example, if the average speed recorded above the posted speed limit was in the five- to seven-range, the street would be assigned five points. If the average recorded speed above the posted speed limit was 15 mph over the speed limit, the street would be assigned 25 points and so forth.

Other factors for which points could be assigned, and traffic-calming measures would be recommended, include average daily traffic volume, the frequency of accidents along a given stretch and whether the street is used by non-local traffic as a cut-through to other major arteries, for example.

Most major changes would fall under the purview of the Mayor and Council, but only after significant opportunities for the public to weigh in. Tweaking that level of public participation in the decision-making process was one of the changes McGean made in the plan presented in December to the one ultimately approved by the council on Tuesday.

Originally, it was believed 75% was appropriate in terms of the number of people needed to weigh in on a proposed active traffic-calming measure. However, McGean said on Tuesday he adjusted the percentage.

“The policy only requires written approval from 65% of residents along a street for active measures,” he said. “The Mayor and Council could waive the 65% requirement after a public hearing was held.”

Complicating the evaluation process further are certain streets designated as primary response routes for emergency services, fire and police, for example. Many of the streets in Ocean City would qualify as primary response routes where significant traffic-calming measures could affect safety and response times. However, McGean tweaked that as well in the final proposal.

“If passive measures have been installed that do not solve the problems, active measures could be implemented,” he said. “Those active measures would have to be approved by the fire chief.”

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.