WEST OCEAN CITY – In the first 10 days of the Route 50 bridge
closure, a county-sponsored shuttle bus moved 1,309 people between Ocean City
and West Ocean City.
“That is just
astonishing,” said County Commissioner Bud Church, who also serves as president
of the Tri-County Council (TCC), which operates Shore Transit, the county’s
public transportation effort founded to get residents to work.
The county is picking up the $1,100-a-day price tag
for the service, which enables people to get to work while the Route 50 Bridge
is closed. The temporary bus route runs between Ocean Pines and Ocean City
via Route 90. The cost for 35 days of shuttle service will be $38,500.
The Route 50 drawbridge
improvements began Jan. 17, and are expected to keep the bridge closed until
Feb.15. Shuttle bus service will continue until the work is complete and the
“I think it’s
wonderful,” said County Commissioner Louise Gulyas. “We’ve picked up a lot of
riders from mid-town to go downtown who wouldn’t use the bus or people from
Ocean Pines. It has really improved relations. … It makes the ride longer, but everyone seems
to be getting every place on time.”
Church said the county
funds are being well spent.
“That money that was
spent by the county to help the people in Ocean City,
that was a huge benefit,” said Church.
Gulyas praised Ocean City
for working with the county and providing buses to and from the bridge
shuttle’s 62nd St.
pick-up and drop-off site.
The Ocean City Chamber
of Commerce and the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association also offered some
financial support to the temporary shuttle service.
When the bridge closure
was announced, county elected officials realized that some Ocean City
and West Ocean City
residents who rely on crossing the bridge to get to their jobs did not have any
other way to get to work. Many county residents do not have access to a car or
alternate transportation and rely on public transit.
“I think we have an
obligation to those employees to get [them] to work,” said Church when
introducing the shuttle bus idea to the commissioners in early January.
For some, the bridge
closure has more than doubled their commute with the detour from the Route 50
Bridge to the Route 90 crossing. What is normally a seven-mile journey for
Gulyas from her home in Ocean City to Berlin
is now a 15-mile trek, for example.
“I feel like I have to
leave the night before,” Gulyas said. “The first week I was late for