OCEAN CITY – Officials say they are planning to hold a public hearing next month to discuss plans for bike path improvements along two resort corridors.
Last Wednesday, City Engineer Paul Mauser, president of the Ocean City Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), presented committee members with an update on the town’s bike strategic plan, which will be used to expand Ocean City’s bicycle network off Coastal Highway.
In February, the Ocean City Mayor and Council reviewed plans for possible bike path improvements along 94th Street, 146th Street and alleyways from 27th Street to 94th Street. As a result of those discussions, Mauser said, the town plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed corridor improvements at 94th and 146th streets.
“The public hearing is in April for those two projects …,” Mauser said last week. “It does extend the project out a little bit, but at least we’re able to get solid feedback from the community.”
Earlier this year, the town hired Toole Design Group, a national consultant, to develop a strategic plan that will be used to expand its bicycle network.
In recent years, the resort has embarked on a multi-phased initiative to install a continuous bike path from one end of town to another without using Coastal Highway. With the help of a strategic plan, officials say the town will have designs and cost estimates for several proposed biking corridors, including Coastal Highway, 94th Street, 146th Street and town alleys from 27th to 94th streets. It should be noted the town had also explored a 10-foot construction easement west of the primary dunes from 94th to 118th streets for a proposed bike path, but eliminated those plans following an outpouring of opposition from property owners.
As part of its strategic planning process, Mauser and Toole Design came before the council in February to present options for three significant bike path projects – one at 94th Street, one at 146th Street and another along the town alleyways from 27th to 94th streets. After considerable debate, however, the Mayor and Council agreed to throw out plans for utilizing the town alleyways after it was learned the proposed bike path called for the elimination of 125 parking spaces.
“The way it boiled down was pretty much as expected,” Mauser told BPAC members last week. “Utilizing the town alleys for a bike route was going to result in 125 oceanside parking spaces being lost from 27th to 94th streets. We didn’t figure that was going to be well received, and it was not.”
Mauser noted, however, that the town had supported design options for bike paths along 94th and 146th streets.
“We had an alternative option already baked into that discussion, and that was essentially transferring the use of that [alleyway] money into further development of the 94th and 146th Street corridors,” he said. “The town council thought that was the most appropriate use of the funding for this project … Essentially we presented three options for each of those two corridors. Council did like some of the specific options, but recommended we have public hearings before proceeding forth.”
Mauser said he would be sending out information on the public hearing to residents in nearby neighborhoods in the coming weeks.
“On my list right now is to provide letters to the Little Salisbury neighborhood, as well as the Caine Woods neighborhood, and set up public hearings in April to get their feedback on the proposed biking improvements to their neighborhoods,” he said. “That way we have a solid plan going forward.”
When asked how long it would take to begin construction on the proposed bike paths, Mauser said it would depend on the responses gathered at the public hearing.
“I can see 146th Street really coming to fruition rather quickly if it’s well supported by the neighborhood,” he added.