By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(Nov. 24, 2022) The Ocean Pines Board of Directors on Saturday agreed to submit a letter of endorsement in support of the efforts by the Worcester County Bike and Pedestrian Coalition with the Route 90 expansion project.
The letter would go to the Maryland State Highway Administration as well as state and local representatives.
Coalition chair Patti Stevens gave a presentation to the directors that broke down what the group would like to see done and where Ocean Pines stands currently in its access to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Stevens said that the focus of the project is to create safe places to walk and bike, thus increasing Ocean Pines’ walkability rating, which currently stands at “car-dependent.”
She added, there’s a “dearth of separated trails” in the area.
“We’re trying to think about big-picture connections that will enhance likability and walkability,” Stevens said.
“Almost all errands require a car (in Ocean Pines).”
She also said that the AARP has the Pines community livability score at just 50 out of 100.
There are positive impacts for more places to walk and bike safely, including a “tremendous” economic impact, which has been seen elsewhere in the county, Stevens said.
Director Steve Jacobs asked her if other nearby communities are “aggressively moving on this,” prompting Stevens to reply that they are and held up the South Point Association as an example.
“We have to put money aside (for this),” Stevens said. “I’m not talking huge millions of dollars. (Certain firms) can come in, with access, and do this now.”
There should be state and federal funds available, she added.
Another example Stevens gave was a grant that the county just received to install a separate trail along Route 611 between Route 50 and Assateague Island.
OPA President Doug Parks threw his support behind the idea later in the meeting, when the board voted on the letter.
“I think it’s important that we as the Ocean Pines Association reach out to all of the folks involved in that project,” he said. “We want to make sure they know we’re interested in the proceedings, the project and moving forward.”
Parks suggested that the board send SHA a list of what it wants — especially widening the Route 90 underpass, which doesn’t have enough clearance to allow for fire trucks. Furthermore, a shared-use path alongside Route 90 would be useless to the community if there was no way for bicyclists and pedestrians to get “up onto there” from Ocean Parkway.
Director Colette Horn focused on other points from Stevens’s presentation concerning what the OPA needs to do on its end.
“I don’t want our support to stop with this letter,” Horn said. “I’d like us to really take to heart the power that we have as a community to promote biking and pedestrian safety and connecting our community to others that already have things in place.”
Responding to Parks, who asked her what a work group that she suggested earlier in her presentation would do, Stevens said such a group could provide examples of how other community bike and pedestrian processes work.
“I would say, yes, it should be bigger than just the Route 90 issue,” Stevens said. “I think making this community more walkable and bikeable and friendly is something that’s been requested for a long time.”
A public comment period is currently open on the SHA website, which closes on Nov. 30.