SNOW HILL – Anticipating the approval of slot machine gambling in Maryland this fall, the County Commissioners approved a staff request this week for a traffic and road facilities analysis of probable traffic in the vicinity of Ocean Downs, where the slot machines would be placed.
“It’s going to happen. I feel it in my bones,” said Commissioner Louise Gulyas, a strong opponent of slot machines in Worcester County. “We have to be very practical and look at it.”
“I feel fairly confident we’ll get those slots whether we want them or not. It’s not Worcester County who’s going to decide, it’s the rest of the state,” said Commissioner Linda Busick.
The Worcester County Planning Commission suggested including the analysis of increased traffic at the already busy Routes 50, 589 and 90 intersections and corridors in the north county transportation analysis now in progress.
“I think the bulk of the traffic will come off Route 50 or Route 90 and therefore something has to be done with Route 589,” Gulyas said. “We can’t just put a bag on our heads and hope it will go away. We have to be prepared.”
County Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman told the commissioners that the county needs an understanding of, and a plan for, the road facilities needed to accommodate the additional traffic generated by gamblers traveling to the racetrack.
“I think this is a great idea. Certainly a prudent action considering we might get slots,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs, whose district lies entirely along Route 589.
Busick said, “It’s probably a good thing Worcester County’s involved with it. We’re the people that live down here and use that road.”
All three of those highways are state roads and are handled by the State Highway Administration (SHA).
“It also helps to have a second opinion,” said Boggs.
The addition of slot machines at the racetrack will require improvements to the road, lawmakers have assured locals. That funding would be used to improve the ability to get into and out of the track property, but is not likely to be applied to the entire highway, despite the increased traffic from people driving to Ocean Downs.
Route 589 carries more and more traffic every year, but until the last few years, there has been no effort to work on eventual improvements to the busy road. In 2006, the state allotted funds to study improvements to Route 589, and intends to fully fund that analysis this year.