With skyrocketing lumber prices caused by supply concerns and shipping delays, Ocean City needs to have another conversation about the surface of the Boardwalk. It’s clear the replacement project needs to happen after this summer.
It’s going to cost much more – potentially more than double – than budgeted to replace the wooden decking of the Boardwalk this offseason. We have always advocated for retaining the true wooden nature of the Boardwalk, but times have changed, and a thorough examination of all other options should be considered before proceeding with wood again.
Lumber costs are at all-time highs currently due to pandemic-related factors, most specifically supply and demand. Therefore, Ocean City would be wise to take a deep dive immediately into all options including stamped concrete, which can be made to resemble wood and have a longer life.
Back in 2011, the last time the Boardwalk was reconstructed, a serious discussion was had on what surface to use. An online opinion poll was conducted over the course of a month with an all wooden deck in first with 51% of the votes followed by wooden with a stamped concrete lane to resemble wooden boards in second place and a wooden board surface with a concrete train lane a distant third place. The council ultimately voted for an all wooden surface on the boards and the tram lane built with standard concrete.
The wooden planks on the Boardwalk typically need replacing every 10 years and the city is now at that time. Prior to the pandemic, the city would have likely reconstructed a portion of the Boardwalk this past fall and winter. The city opted to push the project off last summer because of the high lumber cost. As of now, the first phase of the Boardwalk project – the Inlet to 9th Street including the pier tram detour path — will take place this fall. Discussion was held this week and the council seemed to support the city engineer’s position the project needs to be done this offseason rather than waiting another year for lumber prices to stabilize.
It’s clear from a layman’s perspective the Boardwalk’s condition is suffering. It looks silly in some areas with brand new wooden beams – needed to replace failing pieces — mixed in with old ones.
Though wood will likely be the conclusion again – as it has multiple times when different councils have discussed the issue – we think the city needs to take another look at different surfaces and ensure the hefty investment in wood is still the desire. It’s wise to explore the marketplace again even if the current direction is sustained.