Who will foot the $4 million Dyke Bridge repair cost?

Trustees of Reservations, the listed owner of the area in question, is disputing that they are responsible for the cost.

Edgartown's Highway Department provided temporary repair work to the Trustees' portion of the bulkhead last month. —Abigail Rosen

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.


  1. Perhaps if the private homeowners on Cape Hogue who shut dow All ACCESS to points north of the jetties were more accommodating and cooperative to both the general public and TTOR people would be more interested in helping with solving the issue. If the Cape Hogue residents want to have a private sanctuary perhaps they need to pay for a $4-5million private bulkhead.

  2. The trustees are in business for making money. They have showed that over the years. They are no different from others that treat Marthas Vineyard as a cash cow and give little back to the community. Look at all these people who have bought houses to run a commercial rental business out of and you never see them giving anything back to the community. The trustees are no different. Trustees would probably be OK with no bridge as they don’t want people on their beaches to begin with.

    • Same as for for profits, all non profits must make money.
      Do any for profits give back to the community?
      Where does TTOR profit go?
      Do people improve the quality of beaches?

  3. When the current bridge was constructed I was under the impression that the State paid for it. I remember the State enforcing a 10 PM closure by padlocking the gate each night.

    • The current bridge was deconstructed to allow the for the dredging of the channel to Pocha Pond and then reconstructed.
      Like the vast majority of dredging in the State it was funded by the State.

  4. My experience in working with Tighe and Bond is that they set their engineering fees high. The cost burden should be the responsibility of the state and Ted Kennedy’s family.

  5. The Dyke and Bridge were constructed so Poucha Pond could be a Fish Farm in the 1800’s.
    It is an impottant food source for the Scallops and other shellfish found in Cape Pouge.
    This connection must be maintained, possibly improved for both ponds health.
    We have Been Putting “Band-Aides” on this Bulkhead for Decades !
    I don’t know why they didn’t replace the Bulkhead when the Bridge was replaced it needed it then, really needs it NOW!

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