A recent report has found that a portion of Chappaquidick’s Dyke Bridge is in dire need of repair, but a conflict regarding who’s responsible for the estimated $4.35 million project is slowing down the process.
Dyke Bridge — made famous by its association with the 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne, who had been a passenger in a car Sen. Ted Kennedy drove into the water — has been particularly affected by recent high winds and weather.
The findings by engineering company Tighe & Bond say that although the town-owned western approach to the bridge has undergone recent upgrades and is in “generally good condition,” the wooden barrier on the eastern side of the bridge, which is owned by the Trustees, is older than the rest of the bridge, and shows “significant decay in many areas.”
Edgartown received photographs and video clips highlighting the current condition, prompting emergency — and temporary — repairs, town administrator James Hagerty shared with the select board this week.
When no work had been done to alleviate the degradation of the Trustees’ portion of the area after roughly a year of discussions between TTOR and the town, Edgartown’s highway department ultimately stepped in to do the temporary work.
As for permanent repairs, recommended work includes a steel and concrete replacement to the wooden bulkhead, and vehicle retention guard rails. In their report, Tighe & Bond suggest an elevation of the replacement bulkhead to align with the existing roadway.
The engineering company breaks down the financials of the potential project in the report. Out of the estimated $4.35 million total cost, $3.6 million would be for the actual construction. The remaining $750,000 would cover permitting, engineering, and administrative services.
However, who is responsible for the work is under debate. Edgartown officials say the Trustees have ownership over the area in question, and therefore are responsible for maintenance. The Trustees say otherwise.
“The Trustees have claimed that it isn’t theirs, that they don’t own it,” Hagerty told select board members. “I don’t know how they could not own it and have a gate out there, and sell permits.”
“Who owns it, I think, is very clear,” he said. “It’s not even debatable.”
The total estimated cost — which select board member Mike Donaroma said “sounds crazy” — has Edgartown officials concerned about getting the needed work done.
“Who’s going to pay for [it]?” Hagerty asked. “Just process-wise, I don’t think the town can use taxpayer money to pay for private property.”
He said the town has engaged town counsel to draft a letter that would “require the Trustees to make some sort of forward action, or at least put a plan in place.”
Time is of the essence, Hagerty explained. If Chappy were to experience a major weather event, the degraded portion of the bridge would likely get worse, and fast.
Though the town’s property card for 10 Lighthouse Road has the Trustees of Reservations listed as the owner, the conservation agency has claimed to Edgartown officials that the bridge itself is a public highway, and not under their control.
In a statement to The Times, TTOR representatives declined to comment on the ownership of the bridge’s bulkhead, and said whose job it is to secure maintenance is another matter that has yet to be resolved.
“We continue to work with the town to understand what responsibilities the Trustees may have for maintaining the bulkhead,” TTOR stated.