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Residents do not like traffic circle concept, citing safety

By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer

The intersection for Route 589 and the north gate entrance to Ocean Pines is being considered by the Maryland Department of Transportation for a conceptual traffic circle, which would require two half acres of land on either side of the bridge to complete the design. The design is only a concept and is not yet an approved future project.

(May 16, 2019) A majority of residents of Ocean Pines believe that a traffic circle proposed by the Maryland Department of Transportation at the intersection of Route 589 and Ocean Parkway at Ocean Pines’ north gate is more than a bad idea, it’s a safety concern.

That appears to be the leading sentiment, according to an collection of comments Board of Directors Vice President Steve Tuttle compiled two weeks ago.

“I’m collecting comments from residents with their views about the concept of the circle,” Tuttle said. “I’m getting that information and I’m passing that on to a representative at MDOT so they can understand what the concerns and thoughts are of our community related to this circle.”

The Ocean Pines directors have been asked to donate roughly a half-acre of land on either side of the north gate bridge in order to complete the project, which could involve expanding that section of the road into a four-lane situation.

During the May 4 board of directors’ meeting, some residents registered their concerns about the safety problems the traffic circle could cause.

“This would be a true catastrophe for anybody that uses the north gate,” one resident said during the meeting. The board needs to step up and tell these people, ‘This is a disaster waiting to happen.’”

Others brought up their concerns through emails to Tuttle, who says he has collected around 35 emails on the subject.

“Probably 70 percent [of the emails] are opposed to the concept,” Tuttle said. “People are concerned whether it’s safe for traffic because of all the traffic on 589.”

Bob Rager, Maryland State Highway Administration district community liaison, said says those concerns are misguided, as traffic circles are used to minimize the risk of accidents and improve traffic flow.

“Like any other traffic-control device, they are very effective when used in the right circumstances,” Rager said. “They also are very good at maintaining an efficient traffic flow.”

In the meantime, the board is discussing options that could include modifications to improve travel through the north gate entrance. One option would be to remove the bridge entirely and expand it and to install culverts underneath.

“You could have it just like a bridge, but you wouldn’t have the cost of the bridge,” Tuttle said. “You could widen it, and then anybody coming out that wants to turn right wouldn’t have to wait at all, they could just come out.”

While this would be an advantage for some residents, the cost of the operation would be entirely on Ocean Pines to pay, he added.

The concept is not a design that is set to begin construction, and Tuttle invited transportation department representatives to attend the next board meeting to answer any questions residents might have about the design.