SHA Releases Route 90 Study Results

SHA Releases Route 90 Study Results
This image from the Route 90 Planning and Environmental Linkages Report illlustrates one of several concepts for Route 90. This one features a roundabout where Route 90 meets Coastal Highway.

OCEAN CITY – The results of a Route 90 corridor study show a majority of respondents support a preliminary design that includes two additional lanes and a new four-lane bridge.

On Thursday, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) released the results of its Route 90 Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Study, which evaluates the Route 90 corridor between Route 50 and Coastal Highway.

According to the report, 39% of respondents supported a design that adds a lane in both directions of the existing highway, while 32% of respondents supported a design that adds a second two-lane road to either the north or south of the existing highway, with a median in between. Simply put, both favored options propose a four-lane highway from Route 113 to Coastal Highway, with a new four-lane bridge to either the north or south of the existing span.

“The MD 90 study provides us with the information we need to accurately access this vital corridor and summarize recommendations to help us prioritize projects,” said State Highway Administration Administrator Tim Smith. “Results will be used for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for potential projects in this area.”

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. 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. As part of that effort, MDOT SHA initiated a PEL study to identify long-term transportation needs, including traffic operations, capacity, safety, economic development, pedestrian and bicyclist accessibility and emergency evacuations.

The public survey, which concluded in November, gathered input on five proposed design concepts currently being considered for the Route 90 improvement project.

“The MD 90 Planning and Environmental Linkages Study helps us explore strategies to improve service for all those who use MD 90, from vacationers and local residents to business travelers and emergency responders,” said Maryland Department of Transportation Acting Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld. “In our mission to protect and enhance Maryland communities, we know mobility, accessibility, safety and reliability are vital components. This study will help us and our community partners chart a course of action.”

Survey results issued this week show the proposed design featuring a three-lane, reversible-lane system was the least preferred concept, followed by a three-lane option that included two eastbound lanes and one westbound lane.

Of the 817 survey respondents, 85% of said they would use Route 90 more often if it was less congested. Ninety percent thought improvements were needed to the corridor, with more than half believing those improvements were needed most at the Assawoman Bay bridge.

“The major themes from the survey were: support for increasing capacity by the addition of lanes on MD 90, dislike for traffic congestion and noise levels, support for improving safety and improving access for emergency service responders, and support for bicycle access on MD 90,” the report reads.

In addition to survey responses, MDOT SHA gathered several other improvement proposals suggested by the public. One of those proposals included increasing traffic capacity on roadways outside the study area. Suggestions were provided for Route 589, Coastal Highway, Route 50, and a new roadway connecting into Ocean City.

“Although these proposals are outside the scope of the MD 90 study, MDOT SHA will follow up through separate regional planning and traffic operations efforts to determine the transportation needs for surrounding roadways,” the report reads.

The survey also indicated an interest among Ocean Pines residents in providing direct access to the Ocean Pines community. Those recommendations included providing ramp connections between Route 90 and Ocean Parkway.

“This proposal was not evaluated as part of the PEL report; however, additional community involvement is proposed as individual projects progress into NEPA compliance,” the report reads. “MDOT SHA will plan to engage in dialogue with the Ocean Pines to gain an understanding of the traffic connectivity needs within this community.”

The 141-page report also included ingress and egress options for each of the interchanges or intersections along Route 90. At the intersection of Route 90 and Coastal Highway, for example, one of the proposed concepts includes a roundabout.

MDOT SHA anticipates moving forward with preliminary design and evaluations for potential corridor solutions beginning this spring. Information about the study and the full report are available on the MDOT SHA website, under the project portal page.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.