By Donald WittkowskiHow would you feel if someone walked all over you?Each year, Ocean City’s most popular man-made attraction must withstand the colossal weight of countless people walking, running and biking on it. The seashore’s whipping winds, salt water and beach sand also take a toll on the structure.So, it comes as no surprise that the old wood planks of the iconic Boardwalk must be replaced with new timber from time to time to accommodate the huge flow of foot and bike traffic along the 2.5-mile oceanfront promenade.Currently, the Boardwalk is being reconstructed between Eighth and 10th streets in what is the fourth phase of a multiyear facelift that will stretch from Fifth Street to 12th Street and cost more than $10 million. The fourth phase of the project is particularly important because it includes the section in front of the Music Pier, the Boardwalk’s entertainment hall and a major venue for the city’s First Night celebration for New Year’s Eve.With just a week to go before New Year’s Eve, the Boardwalk’s construction contractor is rushing to finish the work in time for the First Night festivities. Joe Willshire, a carpenter and foreman for Fred M. Schiavone Construction Inc., said the part in front of the Music Pier at Moorlyn Terrace is expected to be completed by next Tuesday or Wednesday.The newly reconstructed section of Boardwalk in front of the Music Pier is nearly done, just in time for the New Year’s Eve festivities.City spokesman Doug Bergen said Mayor Jay Gillian has given Schiavone Construction “strict orders to get it done.” The mayor wants to make sure there are no disruptions to the Music Pier’s entertainment lineup for New Year’s Eve. A Neil Diamond tribute show called Real Diamond and a magic act are scheduled at the Music Pier that night.Bergen said the city typically sells 10,000 admission buttons for the First Night festivities at venues scattered across town. In addition, thousands of other people will be in town to celebrate New Year’s Eve, with many of them expected to gather on the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk will be one of the vantage points for a midnight fireworks show off the beach between Fifth and Sixth Streets.“The notion of tens of thousands of people being here in the heart of winter is absolutely important to the Boardwalk businesses, the downtown businesses, the hotels, the restaurants and all other businesses in Ocean City,” Bergen said.New Year’s Day will also feature some major attractions. Thousands of bathers are expected to brave the chilly surf during the city’s annual First Dip plunge in the ocean, scheduled to get underway at 2 p.m. at Plymouth Place between Seventh and Eighth streets.The Boardwalk will also be the scene of a New Year’s Day 5K run starting at 1 p.m. at Seventh Street. The runners will head north and divert off the Boardwalk onto the streets for part of the race. They will not be able to run the entire length of the Boardwalk because of the reconstruction project.An army of hard-hat construction workers, cranes and excavators has taken over the Boardwalk between Eighth and 10th streets. Although the section of the Boardwalk in front of the Music Pier is nearly finished, the other parts are a busy construction zone punctuated by the din of whirling buzz saws and pounding hammers.Construction workers are replacing old planks with new timber.The Boardwalk’s overhaul will include a new wooden deck as well as a new substructure consisting of piles and other work. Bergen said this phase of the project between Eighth and 10th streets will cost about $3 million and should be totally completed by the end of March. The old planks are being replaced with fresh southern yellow pine, a wood known for its strength and density.The fifth and final phase of the Boardwalk’s reconstruction will happen between 10th and 12th streets. That part of the project is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2017 and should be completed by March 2018, Bergen said.Altogether, there will be a new Boardwalk stretching from Fifth Street to 12th Street when the entire project wraps up. The sections between Fifth Street and Eighth Street were finished during earlier phases. The project will also include five new covered Boardwalk pavilions on the ocean side.Ocean City resident Bill McCann, a 78-year-old retiree who walks on the Boardwalk nearly every day to keep in shape, said he is anxious to see how the project turns out. Inspecting the area near the Music Pier, McCann said he likes what he sees so far.“I think it’s great for the people,” he said. “I’m up here just about every day and this is starting to look really good.”With its array of retail shops, amusement parks, restaurants and other amenities, the Boardwalk is the most heavily visited attraction in town. But the myriad walkers, runners and bikers who traverse the boards each year inevitably add to the wear and tear.“As with all structures, it ages over time,” Bergen explained of the need for the Boardwalk’s reconstruction. “It is the most visited and most iconic part of Ocean City, so we are going to take care of it.”A piece of heavy construction equipment clears out an area underneath the Boardwalk for new piles to be installed. Looking south past Eighth Street, rows of new piles have been installed as the substructure for the Boardwalk’s new decking.