By Maddy Vitale
Those shifting, slanting, sinking sidewalks will soon be history along Ocean City’s downtown shopping district, replaced by more attractive, uniform walkways that officials say will not only enhance the look along Asbury Avenue, but also be safer.
Hackney Concrete Inc. of Atlantic City has a $318,725 contract for improvements that are expected to be completed before Easter and the start of the spring shoulder season, Public Information Officer Doug Bergen said Monday.
Workers are installing new brick crosswalks at the intersection of Eighth Street and Asbury Avenue to match the look of Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue. They are also removing the brick pavers that have become a tripping hazard and an increasing legal liability to the city, Bergen explained.
Carlie Egrie, of Ventnor and Cameron Palmer, visiting from Australia, were walking along weathered and cracked sidewalks on Eighth Street on Monday afternoon.
“It is definitely worth fixing the sidewalks,” Egrie said.
“These sidewalks are definitely not ideal,” Palmer added.
Work being done on the 800 Block of Asbury Avenue will be completed within the next couple weeks. The contractor will then move on to install brick crosswalks at 10th Street and Asbury Avenue and remove brick pavers on the 900 Block, Bergen said.
In June, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to remove the brick pavers and tree grates and repair and install new sidewalks. The pavers and grates, which were put in about 20 years ago, were designed to enhance the downtown look. But over the years, the pavers and grates caused the sidewalks to shift and sink, creating the hazard.
Second Ward Councilman Antwan L. McClellan said the project not only enhances the appearance of downtown, but the project will make it safer for the people walking on the sidewalks.
“We have been talking about it for many years. The exciting part is that they are doing a great job,” McClellan said of the workers. “The businesses are excited about it. They wanted some uniformity. I think it will look very nice and vibrant.”
McClellan continued, “More importantly, there were tripping accidents. We are happy to be able to get that squared away for our guests and downtown businesses.”
Bergen said the long-range goal is to remove pavers from all of downtown Asbury Avenue. They will be replaced with poured concrete to match the rest of the sidewalk. Any commemorative bricks will be moved to the downtown courtyard between City Hall and Yianni’s Cafe, where other improvements are planned to create a downtown resting spot, Bergen said.
Ray Holman, a worker from Hackney Concrete, said the winter weather has slowed down the project.
“We are hoping the weather cooperates more. It has been really tough,” Holman said. “It has to be above freezing to pour the concrete.”
Despite some weather-related problems, he said both business owners and people shopping the downtown have been very understanding.
“People are being really nice, especially the businesses,” Holman said. “I guess they are happy the work is getting done.”