The crosswalk under construction from the South Gate Pond to the Racetrack Road and Manklin Creek intersection aims to create a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly community.
By Tara Fischer, Staff Writer
Ocean Pines is one step closer to creating a pedestrian and biker-friendly community for its residents, as a crosswalk from the South Gate Pond to the Racetrack Road and Manklin Creek intersection nears completion.
The State Highway Administration, a branch of the Maryland Department of Transportation, has been planning the crosswalk for two and a half years, Worcester County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition Chair Patti Stevens said. The two entities worked with the Ocean Pines Association to ensure the connection was appropriately placed at the most trafficked spot.
“The venture faced covid-19-related delays, but we’re thrilled that the state is getting it done,” Stevens said. “The [coalition] raised attention for the crosswalk, but it has always been a State Highway Administration plan.”
The MDOT entirely funded the project. Stevens said, with no grant or additional monetary support required.
Ocean Pines and bicycle coalition officials pushed for construction of the path in the central commercial area, where a safety gap was identified. Half the community’s residents live on the south side of Ocean Pines, near the Food Lion. Precautions are necessary for those who wish to access the grocery store on foot or by bike.
Stevens emphasized the amount of J-walking that currently takes place.
“We observe many people walking and biking that path,” she said. “Both employees and residents. Some people who work at Food Lion, Plaza Tapatia, and Dunkin Donuts need to get across. There needs to be safe access. Currently, there are a lot of illegal and dangerous crossings. That’s something we’re trying to combat.”
Stevens claims that the intersection sees roughly eight to 10 walkers and bikers daily based on her observations. She notes that this estimate is limited to when she drives in and out of the South Gate and suspects the overall number is higher. While the goal is that the safety implementation will allow pedestrians to safely access the Manklin Creek shopping center, officials hope the project is just a start in creating a more walkable community.
Stevens said the need for safe paths in Ocean Pines extends beyond the Racetrack and Manklin Creek project. The hope is that crosswalks will eventually be added to all the trails that span the road. There have also been discussions about implementing a connection between the North and South sides.
State Highway Administration’s Assistant Media Relations Manager Daniel Allman confirmed that the current endeavor is nearly finished. The main crossing over 589 was halfway painted on Feb 2, and the SHA contractor, Rommell Electric, is awaiting the delivery of the audible signal and the automated pedestrian countdown. SHA officials estimate that, weather permitting, the crossing system will be fully operational by the end of February.