OCEAN PINES – Efforts to include bike and pedestrian amenities along a redeveloped Route 90 corridor highlighted discussions at a community meeting this week.
On Wednesday, the Worcester County Bike and Pedestrian Coalition held a community meeting at the Ocean Pines library to share information and ideas regarding bike and pedestrian accommodations along the Route 90 bridge.
As the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) continues to evaluate plans for the eventual redevelopment of the Route 90 corridor, Coalition Chair Patti Stevens encouraged residents to advocate for the inclusion of a safe, separated walking and biking path.
“The purpose of tonight’s meeting is to talk about what could go on here, what other communities have done and what kind of input we would need to show to our project leaders to let them know this is an important consideration,” she told community members this week.
For years, local officials in Ocean City and Worcester County have advocated for improvements to the Route 90 corridor, including an expansion of the current highway and its two bridges from two lanes to four lanes. Officials have argued those changes would not only ease access in and out of the resort for members of the public, but would improve travel for emergency service vehicles.
In August 2021, Gov. Larry Hogan announced funding would be included in the state’s Consolidated Transportation Plan for the planning phase of a Route 90 improvement project. And last month, MDOT SHA initiated a survey to receive public input on the proposed alternatives that are currently being considered.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Stevens said the coalition wanted MDOT SHA to consider bike and pedestrian options in the development of the Route 90 improvement project. She argued that bike and pedestrian pathways were needed in Worcester County, highlighting data on bike and pedestrian activity and the growing popularity of biking events in and around the resort.
“We know if we build these trails people will use them,” she said.
Stevens noted that Worcester County had the fewest miles of separated road trail of any county on the Eastern Shore. She also pointed to MDOT SHA design guidelines, which she said require newly constructed or reconstructed bridges to accommodate bike and pedestrian access where appropriate and financially feasible to do so.
“Not only is it a good idea, but it’s law,” she said.
Stevens pointed out preliminary concepts for the Route 90 improvement project show an option for a separated bike and pedestrian path, but only on the portion of Route 90 that spans from Route 589 to the first bridge. She encouraged attendees this week to reach out to project engineers and local elected officials to advocate for bike and pedestrian accommodations along the entire corridor.
“The key is we don’t have to figure out how to do it,” she said. “We just have to convince the MDOT engineers to do it.”
Stevens also highlighted the need for trail improvements in and around Ocean Pines and a pathway that would connect the community to the Route 90 trail, which runs parallel to Route 90.
“You have to get to the bridge from someplace,” she said. “So we have to have trails that lead from our community at the North Gate and South Gate to the bridge access.”
During public comments, Del. Wayne Hartman said he supported the concept, as it would benefit those who live and work in the area.
“It’s going to be a very effective, economical way for people to commute from Ocean Pines and other places to Ocean City to work,” he added. “So I really think this would benefit everyone.”
Ocean Pines resident Josette Wheatley, a former member of the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors, agreed.
“As part of the association, I really feel this is an important way of bringing both communities together …,” she said. “It’s a win-win for all.”
Wheatley, however, questioned if the association had shared its input with MDOT SHA.
“As of today, I understand OPA has not given any feedback,” she said.
Stevens noted that the Ocean Pines Recreation & Parks Committee and the Ocean Pines Strategic Planning Committee had requested the association provide its input, but that it had not been done.
“I have not heard of any association-level communication on this project,” she replied.
OPA Director Steve Jacobs encouraged attendees to email their board members and present the issue at monthly board meetings.
“In order for the board to elevate this to the appropriate level of importance, I think there has to be more coming from the community saying this is something we need to address,” he said.
Stevens also encouraged attendees to complete the MDOT SHA Route 90 corridor survey, which will remain open for public comment through Nov. 10. Design concepts, planning timelines and the survey link can be found on the MDOT SHA website, under the project portal page.