Concerns over weekend beach traffic, notorious for clogging local roadways in Queen Anne’s County, reached a boiling point on Tuesday at the semimonthly county commissioners meeting. Emergency responders, public health officials, and local residents say the gridlock poses a serious risk to the health and well-being of county residents.
When Route 50 backs up during the summer months, impatient motorists spill onto local roads. The ensuing traffic gridlock severely hinders the ability of First Responders to respond to emergencies in a timely manner.
The rising popularity of navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps only exacerbates the situation. Drivers looking for the quickest route around beach traffic are often directed to neighborhood streets, creating new congestion on residential roadways unequipped to handle the influx of cars.
“We all know how important the Golden Hour is, but we have a hard time getting people and equipment to an accident,” said Commission President James Moran. Moran said the State dismissed the County’s Beach to Bridge plan, which aims to alleviate traffic congestion in Kent Island, Grasonville, and Queenstown.
The Beach to Bridge Plan proposes restricting local roads from nonresidents during peak travel times in the summer months. The proposal includes dispatching local sheriff’s deputies to off ramps along Route 50 in order to enforce the plan.
According to a press release:
It may only be a matter of time before weekend beach traffic that clogs Kent Island’s back roads may cost someone their life because first responders, both paid and volunteer, can’t get from their homes to the stations or from the firehouse to the patient in a timely manner.
Dr. Joseph Ciotola of the QAC Health Department said to the commissioners, “You are the board of health for the county and we have been discussing this with the state for six years. There is a risk to public health and safety if we can’t get units back and forth and the return time (from the hospitals) is a significant issue. This is an emergency situation now. I think you could declare an emergency.”
The commissioners invited the first responders, both volunteer and paid, to come back for next week’s meeting on May 28, to continue the discussion and search for solutions that can be implemented soon.
Today’s navigational apps such as Waze, note backups and redirect travelers to side roads. Last year, the county tried a Beach to Bridge plan to keep the section of Rt. 18 from Stevensville to Queenstown open to local traffic. The officers were stationed at strategic off ramps to direct motorists with western shore destinations to stay on Route 50. “In many cases folks were simply following navigation apps in their cars which direct them onto MD 18 and other back roads. Travelers don’t realize they are leaving one back-up and getting stuck in another,” said County Administrator Todd Mohn.
At Tuesday’s meeting the commissioners voted to allocate $50,000 to pay for the additional law enforcement staff that this plan would depend on.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.