BERLIN– Residents shared frustration regarding Route 90 and Route 589 traffic at a recent meeting in Ocean Pines.
Several residents brought up the need for the widening of Route 90 and Route 589 at a town hall meeting hosted by Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino last Wednesday. Officials stressed that both were state roads but said they would continue advocating for improvements and communicating with representatives of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT).
“We’ll have a better gauge this summer when we meet with them one on one,” said Weston Young, the county’s chief administrative officer.
At Bertino’s meeting at the Ocean Pines library last week, Young told attendees that county staff communicated regularly with MDOT and Maryland’s State Highway Administration (SHA) regarding projects in Worcester County. He said each year, the county sent MDOT a letter outlining local transportation priorities. He said at the moment, staff wanted to make sure progress continued on Route 90, which then-Gov. Larry Hogan announced some funding for in 2021.
“Governor Hogan and his staff have put a lot of things in motion that hopefully it’ll be hard to unwind and we can work towards dualization of Route 90 then we can focus on our other needs such as dualization of Route 589,” Young said.
Young said he and Dallas Baker, the county’s director of public works, met with MDOT officials each summer during the Maryland Association of Counties convention in Ocean City. He said that gave them the opportunity to advocate for local improvements. When asked if residents would have more opportunities to comment on potential Route 90 improvements, Young said it was likely.
“The last feedback we got, they’re accepting comments throughout,” he said.
A resident who was relatively new to Ocean Pines asked if there was room for a Route 589 expansion. Bertino said it would be expanded on the opposite side but noted any expansion was a long way away. He said he’d served on a stakeholder committee related to Route 589 about 20 years ago.
“So far, the state has made it very very clear to the county there is no money or funding available to widen 589,” Bertino said. “I suspect I will be long gone before they put a shovel in the dirt to address the situation.”
Commissioner Jim Bunting said the county’s planning commission considered the need for roadway expansion when they approved development projects.
“The right of way of 589 varies,” he said. “It’s wider than what you think it is.”
Others pointed out that new development impacted the already congested road. The Atlantic General Hospital facility currently underway, for example, will bring another stoplight to Route 589. One audience member suggested a moratorium on commercial development on Route 589. He said the road was already choked with traffic in the summertime.
“You make a very good point,” Bertino said. “That’s not something truthfully the commissioners have discussed.”
Patti Stevens, co-chair of the Worcester County Bike and Pedestrian Coalition, said she wanted to see more safe crossings for pedestrians and bikers on Route 589. Bertino said he felt her group’s efforts had gotten that process started.
“I think we’re doing that,” he said. “We need to continue doing that to an effective end.”