Construction is beginning on the drawbridge at the entrance to Lagoon Pond, straddling the border between Oak Bluffs and Tisbury. I’d like to bring everyone up to date on the status of the overall project and note some of the issues that the Vineyard community will have to deal with in the coming months.

As you probably recall, MassHighway’s approach is to first build a temporary bridge alongside the existing bridge, in order to reroute traffic. Then, a permanent drawbridge will be built in the alignment of the existing bridge.

Work on the temporary bridge, estimated to have a final price tag of $9 million, is just getting underway. Last week signs were installed around the construction site limiting the speed limit for the duration of the construction. A trailer is being put into place in the pullout area on the harbor side of Beach Road, to serve as the contractor’s site office during construction. By mid-November a barge will be in place in the lagoon from which piling and other water work will take place.

According to MassHighway’s current timetable, the bridge pilings should be installed by February 2008 and the abutments completed in late March 2008. The temporary bridge will be made of prefabricated parts. It will be assembled and the roadway work will take place between spring 2008 and fall 2009. In the off-season, one travel lane of the bridge could occasionally be closed; notification of these closings will be publicized in newspapers and on the radio. The temporary bridge is projected to be completed by September 2009, at which time the current bridge will be demolished.

As for the new permanent bridge, Parsons Engineering was chosen as bridge designers earlier this year. Their first priority is to establish the height and location of the boating channel. In the past few months, they have been looking at the impact of boating use on bridge openings and will issue a draft marine clearance report in November of this year, which will propose the optimum channel height and location.

The drawbridge committee has asked that the channel be shifted toward Vineyard Haven in order to reduce the dogleg that is presently a visibility and safety issue for boaters. The navigable width will remain 30 feet wide.

The committee has also asked MassHighway to look at several options for increasing the clearance under the bridge, in order to reduce the frequency of bridge openings. However, we need to balance this with other objectives such as minimizing the height of the retaining walls of the approach roads, and minimizing the visual impact of the bridge.

The second study that Parsons is working on is a type study, which will look at various options for how the bridge will be built. This will include looking at whether it should be a concrete or steel structure, and whether it should have a single or double lift section.

We expect to receive draft copies of these studies in November. In early December, we plan to hold an expanded meeting of the drawbridge committee with selectmen and other interested parties for a briefing and an opportunity to give informal comments.

In February, after MassHighway has reviewed the draft marine clearance report and type study, it will hold a public information meeting at which it will explain the options in more detail and seek input from elected officials and citizens.

Once the channel height and location, as well as the type of bridge, are decided, the engineers will begin the real work of the design phase. Along the way, public meetings will continue to be held to provide more detailed information and to solicit ideas.

Current estimates by the Massachusetts Highway Department project a 2013 completion date at a cost of $31.5 million.

Please attend our public information meetings with your observations and ideas.


Melinda Loberg lives in Vineyard Haven and is chairman of the Lagoon Pond drawbridge committee.