MassDOT: Sidewalk asphalt is only temporary

Asphalt on Beach Road sidewalks is only temporary, says MassDOT — Rich Saltzberg

On Thursday, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) contractors filled in sections of recently repoured concrete sidewalk with black asphalt. Aesthetically, the asphalt seemed to fly the face of specifications Tisbury had demanded for the sidewalk. Those specs triggered the earlier removal of freshly poured sidewalk with jackhammers and an excavator. This occurred because contractors didn’t pour the sidewalk with concrete of the color and texture Tisbury wanted.​​ The sidewalks were repoured at a cost of what MassDOT said was $50,000. MassDOT said this figure was covered by the contractor. The asphalt, which is tar-black and contrasts starkly with the sidewalk concrete, is only temporary, according to MassDOT.

“The asphalt is used as a temporary treatment to keep the sidewalk open and accessible while other related and critical work is completed,” MassDOT spokesperson Judith Reardon Riley emailed. “These asphalt sections will be completed to match the other areas of the project when other work is complete and temperatures raise high enough to place concrete.”

One area of the sidewalk in front of Boch Park remains treacherous for pedestrians, with a gap and height difference between the sidewalk and the park’s cobblestones. Another section of sidewalk closer to Five Corners hasn’t been filled with concrete or asphalt, and contains debris from the demolition of the previous sidewalk. 

The Times asked MassDOT what the chemical composition was of the bluish coating applied to the second sidewalk poured along Beach Road — a coating its contractors later power-washed off, along with a thin layer of concrete, in order to reveal the desired texture beneath. Reardon Riley couldn’t immediately speak to what made up the coating, but did say what its purpose was.

“The sidewalk mentioned has been replaced using the town’s specification for sidewalks,” Reardon Riley emailed. “This includes a bluish coating that is sprayed on the surface of the new concrete, which allows for the lower portions to cure faster than the top portion. This layer is then power-washed off to leave a stony/rough texture to the sidewalk.”

Storm drains from Beach Road empty into Vineyard Haven Harbor. It’s unclear how much, if any, of the sidewalk coating drained into the harbor, and if that happened, whether there were any environmental consequences.  



  1. …and the power pole in the sidewalk, was that another town request? Please don’t touch the poles that actually make our 50k re-pour totally useless for pedestrians, unless you are of the size comparable to a turkey, skunk, or rat.

  2. ” It’s unclear how much, if any, of the sidewalk coating drained into the harbor and if that happened, whether there were any environmental consequences.”

    I have the answer to both of those statements–
    All of it– if it hasn’t already, it will eventually.
    Of course. — Unless it was made from corn starch. Even that would have some consequence.
    And this is the touchy feelie town that banned plastic straws, plastic bottles, and have their town officials ride around in touchy feelie “green” cars.
    The only thing worse than a stupid and incompetent town official is a hypocritical, stupid and incompetent town official.

    At least the Times will always have a story for the next couple of years as the three ring manure cart that used to be a decent town rolls on.

  3. The issue here is the delay in changing the electrical system in that area from the old network of poles, transformers, and wires to the new layout. Lets focus on the actual delays in this project and their causes

    • Tim– I agree — So the cause of this particular sidewalk fiasco was because the horses were behind the manure cart. In any construction project, you do the first thing first, and then go on to other things. It seems pretty obvious that the electric lines should have been moved before they poured the sidewalks. How hard is that to figure out ? The town, the state, the contractors, the planners and local people on this and other forums have been looking at and planning this project for years—Most large construction projects I have been on have a time line-That time line dictates such things as having the wiring, the plumbing and the insulation done before the house gets sheet rocked.
      I mean, really, it seems like somehow Moe got fired, and Curly is in charge of the project, with Larry in charge of quality control.
      And we are only half way through this circus.

  4. I wonder if things might get better if half or the residents in this town refused to pay their tax bills and put the money into an escrow account ? I can tell you one thing that would not happen– Not a single house would even get into land court for at least 3 years, not a single house would be foreclosed on for at least 5 years, especially if the landowners doled a few of their escrowed dollars to stave that off.
    I can also tell you one thing that would happen– the clowns running the town would notice that their troth has dried up, and they might realize that they need to be competent while doing their job, rather than just distracting the errant animals under the big top.

  5. 60-year seasonal guy here, property owner on MV and licensed contractor in another Commonwealth. Let’s all observe that the entire project is temporary. After all, the first two pours were really temporary, both having been ripped out almost immediately after failing to meet–which was it? Tisbury specifications as to finish, or MassDOT specifications via slump or cure conditions? And the contractor assumed these costs twice? Thrice?
    I’m a small contractor of the general type, not expert in concrete placement and finishing. I hire those folks. In my projects of sidewalks and driveways, I wonder if any of my sub-contractor’s businesses could survive the “third time’s the charm” approach or the abandonment of their insurer’s coverage?
    If the photograph accompanying this article shows some section of acceptably finished sidewalk, with its heavily ‘exposed aggregate’ as the finish is called, I can see the nooks and crannies that will make even the signed-off project that much more temporary. One of the best concrete guys I ever had said of the same thing I proposed, “It’s really handsome, but it won’t last”. He wouldn’t have been pouring and finishing 100 yards from a flood prone salt tide, either.
    – WG

  6. I thought the plans called for burial of these ugly utility lines? Or does that occur only after Tisbury digs up the sidewalk again?

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