State Highway Administration representatives assured Ocean City Council members on Tuesday that work on the dualization of Route 90, between Route 113 and Ocean City is underway, though it is too early in the process to give specifics.
“The plan is being developed,” State Highway Administration District Engineer Jay Meredith said. “It’s not at a stage to say what it is or what it will look like ... we are at stop one. We have a long way to go.”
Gov. Larry Hogan announced plans in August to advance a project that will widen Route 90 from two lanes to four, adding that the state’s new Consolidated Transportation Program will include funding for the planning phase of the project – approximately $500,000.
Mayor Rick Meehan has been asking to dualize Route 90 for nearly 15 years, along with the replacement of the Route 50 bridge – though the former, he said, should take priority.
Meredith, along with SHA Assistant District Engineer of Construction Brett Deane, met with council to discuss the Route 90 upgrades along with several other projects in the pipeline – including the Route 50 bridge.
Though the bridge is not expected to be replaced anytime soon, Meredith said the highway administration is working on a 20-year timeframe that they are still well within. The existing bridge, he said, is being maintained. But if there was any “real update,” Meredith said, “it’s in the works,” and they will just keep pushing it along.
Another brief topic of discussion was the idea of implementing a smart signal program to help ease congestion and improve traffic in and around the resort. The system would use real-time traffic conditions and software that can adjust the timing of traffic signals using artificial intelligence.
Meredith said implementing such a program would be “virtually impossible,” because of the amount of pedestrian traffic that crosses main roads like Coastal Highway and Baltimore Avenue.
“It’s probably not a good fit down here,” he said.
As for upcoming projects, Meredith said ADA-compliant upgrades along Baltimore Avenue were initially expected to be completed this fall, but they have been pushed back to Spring 2022, depending on the weather, and anything not completed before Memorial Day will be completed in Fall 2022.
The highway administration also plans to do “major patch work” on Route 90, mainly in the median where there are double rumble strips. Meredith said crews plan to patch the roadway and put in a single set of rumble strips, like those points west of Bishopville.
A couple of bridge repairs are also in the pipeline, including on the eastbound lanes of the Route 50 bridge, where a truck took out a section of fence.
Meredith said crews may wait until after winter to repair the fence. The winter, he explained, introduces risk of snow and trucks sliding and hitting the fence. Still, the fence should be repaired before Memorial Day, he said.
“We are still recovering from covid,” Meredith said with regards to the financial setbacks that have delayed work on the projects.
Despite those setbacks, Meredith said he is optimistic for things in the future.Representatives from the Maryland State Highway Administration met with the Ocean City Council this week to discuss major upgrades in and around the resort.