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Route 589 corridor plan not dead, but in need of money

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

NANCY POWELL ¦ Staff Writer

(Oct. 19, 2012) The Route 589 Corridor Vision Plan is not dead, but remains at a standstill.

“Essentially, we’re in a holding pattern,” Greg Slater, director of Planning and Preliminary Engineering at the State Highway Administration, told the Worcester County Commissioners during their meeting in Snow Hill on Tuesday.

Work to develop the Route 589 Corridor Vision Plan began in November 2009, after the State Highway Administration presented proposed scenarios for the entire length of Route 589, from routes 50 to 113, and held public comment sessions in Berlin and Snow Hill to obtain public opinion.

In October 2010, the county commissioners conceptually approved the plan, subject to review by the Department of Development Review and Permitting. The plan called for Route 589 to be a four-lane divided boulevard with lanes for bicyclists and paths for pedestrians. Crosswalks were also planned at the Ocean Pines South Gate.

One year later, the commissioners voted not to approve the state plans for Route 589 because of concerns that property owners might be unable to develop their land. They said the SHA’s proposal to have a 160-foot-wide right-of-way would have taken away property rights.

The following month, in November 2011, SHA planners agreed to determine what could be done to make improvements to Route 589 while keeping its 100-foot width or expanding the width to 111 feet.

During Tuesday’s visit of state Department of Transportation officials to the Worcester County Commissioners’ meeting, Slater said the department was out of money for the project, but could “look at it in more detail” when money is available.

“It’s specifics that we have to get down to,” Slater said.

Donnie Drewer, traffic engineer for the State Highway Administration, said the state already had the 160-foot right-ofways it needed.

“A lot of our concerns were misinterpreted,” he said of the October 2011 meeting. “I still think we’re on the right track.”

Drewer also said that the proposed 111- foot proposed width could be reduced to the existing 100-foot width.

In an October letter to Gerry Mason, the county’s chief administrative officer, Slater wrote that the SHA might need to conduct a detailed analysis, similar to the ones held in Berlin and Snow Hill during the first visioning process. Until then, he and others could “coordinate with other areas within SHA to investigate opportunities for short term improvements for motorists, bicycle compatibility measures, and pedestrian facility improvements within the current 100 foot typical section.

Changes to Route 589 had been proposed since the early 1990s, when a citizens advisory group was formed. In 1998, the county commissioners passed the first Route 589 plan, basing the right-of-way on a 100-foot corridor. A task force was formed to study short-term improvements such as lining up the 7-Eleven intersection with Cathell Road, which was done.

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