Lagoon Pond drawbridge took 14 years, $52 million, countless meetings

The final construction costs for the new Lagoon Pond drawbridge have been tallied by the state Department of Transportation.

After 12 years of construction, Lagoon Bridge opened after Thanksgiving in 2015. — Photo by David Welch

The two-phase project to create the most expensive piece of infrastructure on the Island cost a total of $51.8 million. The cost overrun between the construction and demolition of the temporary bridge and construction of the new bridge was $3.2 million. But a 10 percent contingency fund of $3.4 million, included in the bid price for the new bridge, covers the overage.

The construction and demolition of the temporary bridge had an original contract total of $9.2 million, and was completed with an estimated contract total of $10.5 million — a $1.3 million overrun, according to Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) documents.

The vast majority of line-item overages were less than 10 percent of projected costs. Some of the larger overruns included $62,500 to dispose of treated wood products, $72,600 for concrete barriers, and just under $75,000 for “steel reinforcement with epoxy.”

On the other side of the ledger, treated timber cost $72,000 less than projected, local police overtime was $40,000 less, and $40,000 for the removal and resetting of the traffic signal was not used.

The new bridge, budgeted for $39.4 million, was completed — almost — for $41.3 million, $1.9 million over the projected cost. Extra work orders (EWO) have tallied $1.13 million.

“EWOs are defined as items that were not anticipated but are identified once work begins, such as rock obstructions and an existing subsurface bridge abutment, that were encountered during excavation operations for the new bridge,” a MassDOT spokesman told The Times in an email.

As of the end of February, pending EWOs totaled $325,000, which will ultimately put the $51.8 million project $125,000 over budget.

Left-to-do items on the punch list include final inspection of traffic signals, highway lighting installation, and closed-circuit cameras and their installation. As with the temporary bridge, most of the overages were less than the 10 percent of projected cost. A few exceptions were overages totaling $151,000 for riprap (loose stone), $70,000 for salt marsh restoration, and $69,000 for ordinary borrow (sand and gravel). Roadway flaggers cost $31,000 more than projected.

Line items significantly under budget included $150,000 less on Superior Performing Asphalt Pavements (superpave), $102,000 less on 36-inch-diameter steel pipe, and $58,000 less on low-density fill.

Bridge history

MassDOT announced plans in 2003 to replace the failing Lagoon Pond drawbridge in two phases, starting with construction of the temporary bridge that opened in January 2010. The original construction schedule called for the permanent bridge to open in 2014, but the project was delayed by a lengthy review process.

MassDOT gave two 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 marine traffic, particularly for times when the Lagoon was an emergency refuge during storms, especially for boats that normally would be moored in Vineyard Haven Harbor.

Engineers believed that even with repairs to the previous bridge, which opened in 1935, it would fail before a permanent new bridge could be built. In 1935, the bridge builders predicted with uncanny accuracy that the bridge they built then would last 75 years. It lasted 78 years. MassDOT bridge project manager Steve McLaughlin told a bridge committee meeting in June 2014 that he expected the new bridge to last 75 years.

This past November, the bridge was rededicated to veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars.

The Times asked Melinda Loberg, chairman of Tisbury selectmen, who served as chairman of the Lagoon Bridge Committee for the entire span of the project, how many meetings she estimated went into the process. “Oh boy,” she said, laughing. “Let’s just say, a lot. Besides the meetings on the Island, there were meetings in Taunton, in the Bridge section of Boston, at the State House with our state representatives, and with the whole gamut of DOT officials from the top down.”

Ms. Loberg gave kudos to MassDOT for delivering as promised: “The big fear was that when it was time to build the second bridge, the federal money wouldn’t materialize. But they [MassDOT] stayed on top of it, and the federal money came through as promised.”

Ms. Loberg said that the project was largely federally funded. “The majority of the cost was paid for by United States taxpayers, all the way to Alaska. And we thank them,” she said. “Locally, the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah contributed $1 million for feasibility studies regarding widening the channel, in the initial stages of the project. They deserve thanks as well.”