High Lumber Prices Complicate Boardwalk Reconstruction Timeline

High Lumber Prices Complicate Boardwalk Reconstruction Timeline
The Boardwalk is pictured over Easter weekend earlier this month. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — Despite the soaring cost of treated lumber, largely because of lingering COVID-related shortages, resort officials will not put off a major re-decking project again.

The complete re-decking of the Boardwalk from the Inlet to the north end at 27th Street has been on the town’s radar for a couple of years now. It’s listed in the town’s capital improvement plan (CIP) for funding in fiscal years 2022 and 2023. The project will be done in two phases.

One phase is the Inlet to 9th Street including the pier tram detour section. The other section will cover from 9th Street to 27th Street. The entire projected cost for both phases is around $2.2 million, spread over two fiscal years in the CIP. There are some pier franchise lease funds totaling $100,000 in each year dedicated to the re-decking project.

Funding the project is not an issue. The trouble is procuring the lumber needed for the Boardwalk re-decking, the price of which has skyrocketed over the last year largely because of COVID. At the outset of the pandemic, many of the major lumber suppliers shut down and the supply of treated wood was quickly exhausted.

Now, with the housing and real estate markets booming, the lumber suppliers have never really caught up and the price of wood has soared in a simple supply and demand equation.

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The start of the Boardwalk re-decking project was delayed last year because of the lumber issues. During a budget work session last week, Mayor Rick Meehan asked City Engineer Terry McGean if the project would be delayed again.

“Right now is probably the worst time to buy wood,” he said. “I know you’ve already delayed the project. What are you’re feelings in that? Is not the time to do it, or do we wait another year?”

McGean said the Boardwalk has been patched and repaired, but it has reached the point the re-decking project cannot be put off any longer. It was most recently rebuilt in 2012 and 2013, and the lifespan of the deck is roughly eight to 10 years. It is now showing signs of distress with single boards being replaced in areas and the re-decking project needs to be expedited.

“I don’t know that we can wait another year,” said McGean. “I’m not optimistic. I’m going to look at the lumber companies and the market. Right now, things are getting worse, not better.”

Meehan said the timing was unfortunate with the Boardwalk needing a new deck at the same time as the pandemic and the associated lumber shortage.

“We couldn’t have picked a worse time,” he said. “It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just the way it cycled. You don’t see another delay?”

McGean said he didn’t think it would be prudent to put the project off any longer.

“We’re going to have to bite the bullet,” he said. “It will be done in phases, so we’ll be buying half the wood at this time.”

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.