Lagoon Pond drawbridge construction to start this fall

— File photo by Nelson Sigelman

Construction of the permanent Lagoon Pond drawbridge will begin after Labor Day, on schedule for completion in June 2016, MassDOT bridge project manager Steve McLaughlin told a meeting of the Lagoon Pond drawbridge committee Wednesday.

MassDOT plans to open bids for the permanent Lagoon Pond drawbridge next week, award the contract in mid July, issue a notice to proceed in early August, and hold a pre-construction conference before Labor Day.

“Right after Labor Day, you’ll see some action,” Mr. McLaughlin said at a public meeting of the drawbridge committee at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in Oak Bluffs. Mr. McLaughlin gave an overview of the construction schedule, and project manager Leslie Haines of the Parsons Corporation design team outlined the project milestones.

“What should we tell our grandchildren to anticipate for the amount of time this bridge will be in operation?” drawbridge committee chairman and Dukes County commissioner Melinda Loberg of Tisbury asked.

“Seventy-five years,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Moving forward

MassDOT issued a request for proposals last spring for the construction contract. Mr. McLaughlin said although the bid opening was scheduled for June 4, it was delayed a few times because contractors asked some good questions, and the answers required some fine-tuning.

The bid opening is now scheduled for June 18. After that, MassDOT must request permission from its board of directors to award the contract to the lowest bidder.

Based on an engineer’s estimate, Mr. McLaughlin said, “We have, in general, a cost of around $38 million or so.”

MassDOT announced plans in 2003 to replace the old and failing Lagoon Pond drawbridge in two phases starting with the temporary bridge that opened in January 2010, built at a cost of $9.3 million.

MassDOT gave two basic reasons for its two-phase plan. Building a temporary bridge would allow vehicular traffic to be rerouted during the construction of the permanent bridge, and also allow the drawbridge to continue to accommodate boat traffic, especially for emergency refuge in Lagoon Pond for boats in the harbor. Secondly, engineers believed there was considerable risk that even with repairs, the existing bridge would fail before a permanent new bridge could be built.

When engineers described plans for the permanent drawbridge at a 2008 public hearing, MassDOT had hoped to complete the bridge in 2013, at an estimated cost of between $31 and $35 million. The project was delayed by a lengthy review process.

Down to the details

The drawbridge project involves the replacement of the current temporary steel bascule bridge with a new, seven-span bascule bridge. The work includes removal of the existing temporary bridge, installation of a multi-use walkway, installation of two navigation piles, approach work and the installation of bridge piers, retaining walls, and a seawall.

A pathway that goes under the bridge on the Tisbury side and around to a small landscaped area with picnic tables and benches were added at the suggestion of the drawbridge committee. There will also be an access road to that area on the Lagoon Pond side, which required the addition of a rain run-off catch basin. Mr. McLaughlin said construction is expected to take 1,048 days.

Final plans for the bridge tender’s hut call for a stone facing and hip roof. Mr. McLaughlin said illustrations are in the works and that he would give them to the committee in a few weeks. He also went over preliminary landscaping plans, which include 12 trees and a variety of shrubs underneath and around the bridge.

A matter of timing

Ms. Haines said among the project’s most significant complications are environmental restrictions that dictate when work can be done. Areas near the bridge are winter flounder habitat, and no in-water, silt-producing work is allowed between January 15 and May 31. Since the Notice to Proceed will be issued in August, Ms. Haines said there may not be a lot of construction activity this year.

“So what we’re anticipating is the contractor may be out there doing some preliminary stuff and take advantage of the winter to get all their shop drawings in, order the steel, and do all those approvals that we have to take a look at, the concrete, the reinforcing and all that,” she said. “And as soon as the season starts, they can get out there next summer, and really kind of go crazy with construction.”

Ms. Haines said the first milestone is the actual testing and commissioning of the bascule span. The heavy construction work is expected to start next summer.

The new bascule span on the permanent bridge will be offset from where the temporary bridge is. “So they’re going to build the bridge on either side of the existing bascule span, and get the new span tested, commissioned and get it running, we expect, by June 2015,” Ms. Haines said.

The contractor will not be allowed to close down the channel until after October 1, 2015. At that time the last piece of the permanent bridge will be filled in and traffic will be switched over to it, sometime around the end of October or early November 2015, Ms. Haines said. Then demolition of the temporary bridge will start.

The piles for the temporary bridge do not have to be pulled out but must be pounded down five or six feet because of environmental restrictions. That work must be done by January 14, 2016, in order to avoid the winter flounder season, Ms. Haines said. The bridge project must reach substantial completion by June 2016.

Questions and concerns

Drawbridge committee members who attended the meeting included Ms. Loberg of Tisbury, Oak Blufffs shellfish constable Dave Grunden, Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel, Tisbury harbor master Jay Wilbur, Tisbury planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson, and Dan Greenbaum of Chilmark, a retired traffic engineer.

MVC executive director Mark London, senior planner Bill Veno, and MVC commissioner Fred Hancock also attended, along with Dukes County commissioner Leon Brathwaite of West Tisbury.

Several asked questions during the meeting. Mr. Wilbur expressed concerns about the plan to do work in the water and around the temporary bridge in the busy summer season. He told Ms. Haines that Tisbury recently postponed its dredge project to the fall, because the contractor had to delay its start from the spring into the summer. “The main reason was because of danger from cranes and pipes and that kind of stuff in the water where there’s recreational boating traffic,” Mr. Wilbur said.

Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel expressed similar concerns about the bridge construction’s impact on motor vehicle traffic. Ms. Haines said the contractor will be required to coordinate the project with Island officials. Mr. Israel suggested that once the contract is signed, the contractor should meet with the drawbridge committee and Tisbury and Oak Bluffs town officials to coordinate the project.

“There will be trucks, because they have to get concrete out there,” she pointed out. “The good thing is that you’ve got a temporary bridge, so they can stage close to the bridge without impacting traffic. They obviously have to get there, though.”

Mr. McLaughlin said the construction contract specifies the contractor may not work on Saturdays, Sundays, and any legal holiday, or the day before or day after a holiday. No noisy work may be performed between 6 pm and 7 am.

Ms. Haines said about 16 to 18 contractors took plans, and about five or six are asking questions. “All of them are very experienced and used to dealing with the public,” she said. “All of them are from Massachusetts up to Maine. They understand the sensitivity of the location and the summer traffic issues.”

Ms. Loberg reminded the committee that the Tisbury and Oak Bluffs selectmen wrote MassDOT in March in support of allowing construction and longer work hours in the summer.

“We don’t want to come to your Island in the summer and mess things up,” Mr. McLauglin said. “But we’ve got a temporary bridge there, and traffic will always be able to use it. So we’re not going to impede traffic; we’re not going to take a lane during the summer months.”