State selects alternative for Ocean City bridge
State Highway Administration
The State Highway Administration has chosen a new drawbridge as its long-term plan to replace the U.S. 50 bridge into Ocean City that would cause less disruption of existing property than the leading alternative.
Known as the Harry W. Kelley Bridge after the late, colorful mayor of Ocean City, the existing drawbridge was completed in 1942 but it received a new deck several years ago and is believed to be in good shape.
The replacement choice, known as Alternative 5-A, now goes to the Federal Highway Administration, which would have to sign off before federal funds could be spent on the project. Officials said the selected plan involves eight displacements of existing properties, compared with 37 for a larger, non-drawbridge alternative.
In making the announcement, the SHA also rolled out what for it is a new way of explaining its choice through animation. It has put simulated videos on its web site attempting to show how driving the new route would appear to a driver. Click on 5-A, the second one down, to see how the proposed gateway to downtown Ocean City would look.
For now, the replacement bridge remains a part of the state's long-term transportation plans only. There is no money in Maryland's six-year spending plan for engineering or construction, said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar.
SHA planning director Greg Slater said the bridge's actual replacement isn't expected until about 20-25 years from now -- not an unusual timeline for projects of its scale.
The plans call for removal of the center, drawbridge section of the existing span. Its ends, meanwhile, would be left standing for recreation purposes such as fishing.
Slater said engineering considerations would have favored a higher bridge that wouldn't have to open. But he said that would have required too much clearing of property on the barrier island, prompting the state to choose a new drawbridge parallel to the existing span.
“To me these projects can't be about engineering,” Slater said. “They have to be about the communities they are in.” He said the new drawbridge would be 30 feet high compared with the existing 18 feet, letting 75-80 percent of boat traffic pass without opening it.
The plan was chosen after many rounds of public meetings, hearings and consultation with local leaders, SHA officials said. “It was a 100 percent consensus almost across the board that this was the right way to go,” Slater said.