Ocean City Today

Boardwalk tram replacement proposal now out to market

Sub-commission suggests considering gas, electric models, City Council agrees
By Katie Tabeling | Jul 13, 2017
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(July 14, 2017) By the end of the summer, Ocean City officials should have a better idea what eight Boardwalk trams will cost, as the City Council agreed to issue a request for proposals to replace them. Deadline for the proposals is tentatively set for the end of August.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins told the council Tuesday that the request, which involves versions powered by standard fuels versus electricity, would specify what the trams need to operate on Ocean City’s Boardwalk.

“The tech specifications, like accommodating for the pier with a specific grade and needing a diameter to make the turn at 27th Street, are non-negotiable,” he said. “We do have $200,000 in the budget to make a payment on gas trams, but from an administration standpoint, it would be a better position to look at electric. It would be up to the council to discuss the merits of going green.”

The tram subcommittee, led by Transit Manager Mark Rickards, met three times this year to narrow options for buying a new fleet.

Among the possibilities were models with diesel and natural gas engines, but those were quickly rejected. Officials decided against diesel because of the exhaust fumes on the Boardwalk, and natural gas would require specialized fueling stations in the planned tram facility on Second Street. That cost, Adkins explained, would not justify the means.

Refurbishing the old trams was also considered at $1 million, but Adkins said that it would be more trouble than it’s worth.

“Some of the parts are obsolete, so you’d end up with a Frankenstein thing. The question would be how long it’d last,” he said. “There’s also the issue that we couldn’t do them all at once, and some trams are used for Winterfest.”

The council was receptive to the request, but Councilman Wayne Hartman had issues with the fact the whole council was not involved in the last step in discussion before this went out on the market. He also advocated keeping the existing trams running longer.

“I voiced my concerns with something this big being discussed at a committee level, that we lose the ability to ask questions. I think exploring part of [coaches] having ADA accessibility built into it would be beneficial. You could also have a tow vehicle available so that we could exceed the life of the engines.”

Council President Lloyd Martin countered that it was 15 years since Ocean City looked at trams, and the market could have changed.

“I envision the coaches have ADA accessibility for everyone, not just the first car [as are the current ones]. It remains to be seen what’s out there and what the RFP will bring us,” Martin said.

Adkins added that the city should invest in new engines rather than relying on the Jeeps to tow the trams to prolong their lives. Tram driver cars have a flat front, putting the operator up close to the windshield, compared to the Jeeps that have a long nose.

“Even the best parent could lose control of their child … no one wants that to happen,” Adkins said.

Hartman continued to press keeping the trams at least one more year.

“If part of them will last for 2018, but not maximize our deployment, will 2019 be that big of a problem?” he asked.

“I’m not willing to roll the dice with our mechanical problems,” Adkins answered.

That said, Hartman made a motion to send out the RFP, but with the provision for vendors to supply options for handicap-accessible cars and a drive unit, separate from the regular gas and electric options. The motion passed unanimously.

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