Progress continues on Lagoon Pond drawbridge project

The project is still on track to meet a mid-June completion deadline.

With a little over two months to go before the summer season begins, construction at the Lagoon Pond drawbridge project is on track. – Photo by Sam Moore

More than 10 years after work on the project began, the new Lagoon Pond drawbridge that spans the channel between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs is nearing completion. With a little over two months to go, construction is still on track, and the responsible contractors still intend to meet a mid-June deadline, Tisbury selectmen and Lagoon Pond bridge committee member Melinda Loberg said Monday.

“It looks like a lot to me, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by them keeping on schedule,” Ms. Loberg said.

From about January to early March, work in the water was halted for winter flounder season. State Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) regulations restrict work that would impede or disturb the flow of water in the construction area to protect the spawning and juvenile development of winter flounder and shellfish.

Recently, permission was granted to resume work in the water, which will include pulling out the remaining sections of the temporary bridge.

Work on the new bridge includes building the rest of the retaining wall, finishing the sidewalk and shared-use path on the lagoon side of the bridge, grading the area for stormwater discharge, and putting large rocks between the land and the water. Water and sewer lines have already been hooked up.

Installation of the control arms that will stop traffic when the bridge is raised will also likely begin in the next few weeks. Ms. Loberg warned that the installation may cause brief traffic stoppages.

“Those control arms are going to be pretty amazing, I think, because one of the things they do is they pivot so they can lie flat against the fence and not stick up in the air,” she said. “The bridge will look unimpeded, which is pretty cool.”

Later this season, the area will be completely landscaped. Right now, the landscape plan is not completed, Ms. Loberg said.

“They’ve had one in the works, but their process is very onerous; it has to go through several people, and it’s a whole permitting and approval process,” Ms. Loberg said. “There were a few changes, and they were sort of accumulating all of the changes that would require some of the big permits, like the water quality and everything else. They’re putting those all together in one package so they can get all of them done at once.”

Throughout the entire construction process, Middlesex project manager Jamie Doyle, District 5 Department of Transportation representatives, and engineers from Parsons Engineering have been meeting every two weeks to give a progress report, detail future plans, and answer questions from the public.

“It’s high-level, constant discussions,” Ms. Loberg said. “And in between those meetings, they’re in contact with each other all the time.”

Ultimately, Ms. Loberg said, the intention is still to have the project — which began in November 2013 — completed by mid-June, just prior to the start of tourist season.

“It is their intention to have the whole project complete by mid-June,” she said. “As in, take the cranes, take the barges, and go home.”

Two-bridge process

MassDOT announced plans in 2003 to replace the 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. The original construction schedule called for the permanent bridge to open in 2014, but the project was delayed by a lengthy review process. The new bridge opened to traffic in November 2015.

MassDOT gave two basic reasons for its two-phase plan: Building a temporary bridge allowed vehicular traffic (which can be as much as 14,000 vehicles per day in the summer, according to Martha’s Vineyard Commission figures) to be rerouted during the construction of the permanent bridge, and also allowed the drawbridge to continue to accommodate boat traffic, especially for emergency refuge in Lagoon Pond for boats in the harbor.

Engineers believed there was considerable risk that even with repairs, the previous bridge, which opened in 1935, would fail before a permanent new bridge could be built. In 1935 the bridge builders predicted with uncanny accuracy that their bridge would last 75 years. It lasted 78 years.

The initial construction estimate for the permanent drawbridge was $37.9 million, but the value of the contract MassDOT awarded was $43.7 million.