(Nov. 8, 2013) “Just fix the damn bridge,” Worcester County Commissioner Louise Gulyas said Tuesday during the annual meeting with Maryland Department of Transportation and State Highway Administration officials.
Gulyas has been telling them that at least since 2009.
“You quickly skirted around the issue,” Gulyas said.
“We don’t have funding,” SHA administrator Melinda Peters told her.
The 67-year-old draw span over Sinepuxent Bay has an estimated life span of 15 to 20 years left and has experienced mechanical problems with the drawbridge during peak seasonal traffic.
The daily traffic during this past summer was 49,575 vehicles. The daily traffic during the 2030 summer is estimated to be 61,900.
Although Gulyas, who represents Ocean city, is pressing for something to be done about the aging bridge, the Ocean City Council has a different priority.
In a June 18 letter to the county commissioners, Mayor Rick Meehan wrote of the council’s desire to “highlight a concern of Ocean City relative to long range planning and the effects the replacement of the US 50 bridge will have on overall accessibility to Ocean City.”
Replacement of that bridge “has the potential (and reality) of causing severe traffic congestion issues, for multiple summer seasons, for those who chose to visit Ocean City as their vacation destination.”
Meehan wrote that it “is far more prudent” to complete the dualization of the entire Route 90 corridor, from Route 50 to Coastal Highway, before replacing the Route 50 bridge.
State officials did not discuss Meehan’s letter during Tuesday’s meeting, but in a letter to him, Peters thanked him for his recommendation to begin the planning process to widen Route 90. That bridge, she said, is included in the SHA’s Highway Needs Inventory, “which is a non-fiscally constrained long-range plan. Inclusion in the HNI is a required step before any project planning study can begin. Your recommendation will be kept in mind when SHA works with the Department of Transportation to develop future editions of the Consolidated Transportation Plan.”
Numerous other projects, including work on Route 113, Route 589, Route 50 and Coastal Highway, were discussed during the annual meeting.
The continuing work to make Route 113 a four-lane divided highway includes upgrading the area from north of Public Landing Road to Massey Branch, a distance of 8.9 miles.
The SHA is developing short-term needs for Route 589 from Route 50 to Route 113, a distance of 4.7 miles. This project would relieve traffic congestion and improve traffic safety.
This year, the SHA has completed resurfacing Route 50 from Route 818, Berlin’s Main Street, to the Wicomico County line at a cost of $2.5 million. SHA also completed ADA improvements on Broad Street west of Henry’s Mill Drive to Route 818 in Berlin, at a cost of $446,000.
The SHA plans to continue resurfacing projects in the county and plans to rehabilitate the Pocomoke River Bridge at a cost of $8.8 million. It also plans to replace small structures over Double Bridge Branch, Crippen Branch and Bunting Branch at an approximate cost of $429,000 each.
In Ocean City, the SHA is continuing to make ADA improvements on Coastal Highway.
Plans also call for improvements at the intersection of Route 50 and Seahawk Road. On the westbound side of Route 50, a left turn, for drivers turning to go to the school or elsewhere in that direction, will be added.
“We think it’ll make a bid difference, particularly during school hours,” SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer said.