BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday dedicated $15 million to accelerate improvements for Maryland Route 90, known as the Ocean City Expressway, in Worcester County, as part of the "Reach the Beach" plan.
Connecting US 50 and Maryland Route 528 in Ocean City, the 12-mile two-lane road experiences congestion eastbound and westbound on Fridays and Saturdays, with eastbound traffic backing up for miles with beach travelers at the start of the weekend. The area where Maryland Route 90 intersects with US 50 carries about 33,000 vehicles a day on summer weekends, Hogan's office said.
Additionally, both US 50 and Maryland Route 90 are evacuation routes during hurricanes.
The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration has started a Planning and Environmental Linkages study to look at the needs of the Maryland Route 90 corridor, "including traffic operations, capacity, safety, economic development, pedestrian and bicyclist accessibility, and emergency evacuations," according to an agency website.
The governor's office said calls to modernize the road date back to the administration of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer. At the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference last August, Hogan announced $850,000 would be dedicated toward the planning phase of the project.
Monday's announcement comes days after Hogan announced a $28 million study to relieve congestion for drivers crossing the Bay Bridge.
"After decades of inaction, our goal has been to finally fulfill that 'Reach the Beach' mission," he said. "By moving forward on a new Chesapeake Bay crossing and with the modernization of MD 90 -- the Gateway to Ocean City -- we will be providing a safe, efficient, 21st century transportation system for the Eastern Shore, which will allow us to continue to grow our economy, and which will ensure that Marylanders and visitors alike can enjoy all that Ocean City and the Eastern Shore have to offer."
The Planning and Environmental Linkages study is expected to be completed by January 2023, after which the State Highway Administration will announce timelines for design and construction. A virtual public hearing on the process is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21 from 6:30-8 p.m.
According to Hogan's office, Maryland Route 90 was built in the 1970s to connect beachgoers with growing areas in northern Ocean City. The road crosses St. Martin River and Assawoman Bay on two bridge spans and dumps traffic out near 62nd Street.
"MD 90 provides needed access to Ocean City for beachgoers, and also serves as a critical connector for residents and businesses," said Maryland Transportation Secretary James F. Ports Jr. "Governor Hogan's commitment gives us the tools we need to deliver improvements in partnership with community residents, officials, and local agencies."
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