(Nov. 8, 2019) The Maryland Department of Transportation’s draft of its five-year consolidated transportation program has one thing in common with the one the Worcester County Commissioners saw last year: no mention of improvements to Route 90.
The consolidated plan, which incorporates projects being considered by the department’s multiple offices and administrations into one compendium, was presented to the commissioners last Tuesday, and again money is the obstacle.
Earl Lewis, deputy transportation secretary, told the commissioners Maryland transportation’s revenue is not increasing as had been predicted.
“MTA’s revenues and gas revenues are down due to fewer people using transit and gas stations selling fewer gallons of gasoline at lower prices,” Lewis said. “It’s worth noting that while the amount of gallons of gasoline sold goes down, the annual miles traveled goes up.”
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic pointed out that the plan said nothing about dualizing Route 90, which the county commissioners and Ocean City Council have asked the state repeatedly to make a priority.
“When we have the funding to do projects like that – that’s one challenge we always have,” Lewis said. “There’s always more projects that we’d like to do than we have resources to do right now.”
Mitrecic added a concern that replacing the Route 50 bridge, a project listed for future study in the plan, would be impossible without first dualizing Route 90 to divert traffic. The plan states that the drawspan has an estimated 15 to 20 years of life remaining.
“It concerns me that it’s not even listed anywhere,” Mitrecic said. “I know that once it gets listed, it could be 20 years out.”
Delegate Wayne Hartman (R-38 C) emphasized that Route 90 should take priority over Route 50 because of safety concerns.
“We noticed this summer during the White Marlin Open, one of the busiest tourism weeks for Worcester County, that bridge got stuck,” Hartman said. “Route 90 being a single lane, it doesn’t take much. A simple accident can make that impassable and shut down — totally stranded. Emergency responders have no way to navigate.”
On top of that, Commissioner Chip Bertino asked when Ocean Pines might see a solution to the increasing traffic congestion on Route 589. He expressed frustration that it hasn’t seen much progress.
“My honest answer is that I don’t know how long it’s going to be,” Lewis said. “I do know, though, there’s a lot of projects that have taken some time to do. If we maintain our focus on getting those eventually, they’ll get done – even large projects. I hope it’s not decades, more like years, but I can’t forecast that.”
The capital improvement plan is $1.1 billion less than last year’s final six-year plan, according to Lewis, because some projects were completed sooner than anticipated and because of declining revenue and increasing operating costs for Maryland Transit Administration and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Other projects are:
• The widening Route 346 between Route 113 and Healthway Drive. It will extend the southbound Route 113 left-turn lane onto Route 346. Construction began this fall and is expected to be completed June 2020.
• The dualization of Route 113 from Route 365 to Five Mile Branch near Snow Hill. The entire 38-mile dualization is expected to be completed by June 2020.
• Rehabilitation project for the Route 50 Harry Kelly Bridge. The three-year project is nearly halfway complete.
• Construction for a 10-foot wide shared path along Rt. 50 for bicycle and pedestrian safety. It will provide a continuous pedestrian path from Rt. 611 into downtown Ocean City and is almost complete.
• A $3 million project for a second left-turn lane from eastbound Route 50 to Route 589. It is expected to be completed by spring 2020.
MDOT allocated the following funds for Worcester County:
• $2,362,559 in highway user revenues, an increase of $297,860 from last year.
• $50,953 in highway safety grants through Maryland Vehicle Administration.
• $4.2 million in operating and capital grants to Shore Transit, covering three medium and three small buses replacements, mobility management and ongoing preventive maintenance.
• $6.5 million in operating and capital funding for its transit system, including $5 million to complete the new transit facility.
• $9,643 for the Ocean City Municipal Airport’s land obstruction program.