DOT will hold hearing on Lagoon Pond Drawbridge

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) highway division will convene a public hearing to discuss the proposed replacement of the Lagoon Pond Drawbridge, at 4:30 pm, Thursday, April 29 in the Katherine Cornell Theater in Vineyard Haven.

The purpose of the hearing is to provide the public a chance to learn about the proposed bridge replacement project and comment. “All views and comments made at the hearing will be reviewed and considered to the maximum extent possible,” according to a MassDOT press release.

Plans will be on display a half hour before the hearing begins, and an engineer will be available to answer questions about the project. A project handout will be made available on the MassDOT website at: www.massdot.state.ma.us/Highway/.

“The plans are at the 25 percent completion phase, a stage at which we will have our final meaningful opportunity for input into the basic design, footprint, height and bascule type,” Melinda Loberg, chairman of the drawbridge committee said. “Mass DOT and their bridge engineering design group, Parsons, will also provide several choices of design features such as light fixtures, cement design/color, railing types and bridgetender’s house style. The designer will also be seeking comment on the draft landscaping plan.”

The temporary drawbridge was built at a cost of $9.3 million. The permanent bridge is expected to cost $35.7 million and be completed in 2013.

Why two bridges and why so much time to get a new bridge in place are the most common questions from Islanders perplexed by the apparent duplication. The bridge committee answered that question in a report dated April 30, 2004.

First of all, it is a complex project. For example, construction in the water can only take place from November 1 to February 14, because of spawning fish and shellfish. A decision to build a permanent bridge in the location used for the temporary bridge would have required adding more fill and taking a small house located adjacent to the site, and would have taken more time.

There was a real fear that the existing bridge would fail before a new bridge was in place. That would have left two choices: Leave the bridge down (only with Coast Guard approval) and discontinue the Lagoon as a harbor of refuge, or leave the bridge up and create a long detour.

And then there is the “Vineyard factor,” which is expected to add a year or two to the construction schedule, due to permitting and work related factors.