Let’s talk about infrastructure

To the Editor:

For those of us living along Lambert’s Cove Road, we have learned over the past two months how failing infrastructure can affect our way of life. That is because for the past 60 days, Upper Lambert’s Cove Road from the Tisbury town line to State Road has been closed. This has meant rerouting for mail and school buses, an emergency preparedness plan between Tisbury and West Tisbury to provide vital police, fire, and medical services, residents up-Island of the closure having to drive miles out of their way to get to a ferry, to work, to shop, and to the hospital and local businesses like Cottle’s sending all of their commercial traffic up-Island. Further, we are one downed tree or power line away from being cut off, potentially for hours.

How did we get here? Each of our towns has a public works department that maintains our roads and bridges. That includes regular and proper inspection and preventive maintenance when necessary. This work is overseen by the town administrator, and each town’s board of selectpersons.

During a rainstorm in early December, Lambert’s Cove Road near Smith Brook had a culvert under the road collapse, and, thankfully, it did not take a car, commercial, school, or emergency vehicle down with it. Although an act of nature brought the rain, it was a lack of proper oversight that brought about the road collapse. This culvert had been “inspected” earlier by the town, and was scheduled for repair in January, but if it had been properly inspected, it would have been determined that the culvert had already eroded away, and that the road was in need of emergency attention. This all has been made known since the collapse. Could this collapse have been prevented? You betcha!

So while we are all eager for the road to reopen, hopefully this month, I wonder about all our other infrastructure, which we depend on every day to get to school or work, to the doctor or to the grocery store. Has every other culvert and bridge been inspected properly? Are we making poor maintenance decisions today that could affect us ahead? Do we have the preparedness and ability so that, should this happen again, we can get our infrastructure back up and running in days, not months? I am a bit concerned, because as I have researched this, I have seen a lot of time spent on scrambling to fix, and no time spent on discussing how it happened and how to prevent it from happening elsewhere. Every town should be looking at its infrastructure, and selectpersons should insist that it is up to the task.

Michael Bellissimo
West Tisbury