The Lagoon Pond drawbridge will be closed for repairs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. all next week while MassHighway workers replace some of the bridge's structural steel. Traffic along Beach Road will be diverted to the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road during those hours.
"This is part of the ongoing effort to make interim repairs as we work toward installing the temporary bridge and eventually the replacement," MassHighway spokesman Jon Carlisle said yesterday.
Mr. Carlisle said the state has inspected the bridge and found trouble spots regularly over the past two years. He said workers have fixed both mechanical problems - to ensure the opening and closing of the drawspan - and structural ones. Just last winter the timber pilings, which loosen as traffic passes overhead, were reinforced to stabilize the bridge.
"All of this points to the need for a new bridge: that is the end to which we are working," Mr. Carlisle added.
In July MassHighway unveiled preliminary plans to build a $3.8 million temporary drawbridge before beginning construction on a permanent replacement of the existing bridge. The plan calls for filling in part of the Oak Bluffs side of the Lagoon to create a base for the bridge footings, which many fear will reduce circulation in the ailing pond.
Islanders will weigh in on the issue at a Nov. 24 hearing with MassHighway at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven.
Bridge tender Robert Maciel yesterday explained that the drawbridge lifts from the Tisbury side, so that when it closes it comes to rest on a cement pad on the Oak Bluffs side. On that pad are welded five steel plates that match up with five plates on the bridge itself. Each plate is roughly 10 inches square by three-quarters of an inch thick.
Mr. Maciel said one of the plates on the cement pad fell off about a month ago. At that time, MassHighway replaced the plate, along with a second one they found to be corroded. Now the state plans to tackle the remaining three and do other minor repair work.
As the November hearing approaches, Islanders continue to raise concerns about the temporary bridge.
A citizens group that recently called for the Island to speak with one voice on the matter continues to gather information on the project. Next they plan to talk to local conservation commissions about whether the state can bypass local boards when it comes to permitting for the temporary bridge.
Richard Combra Jr., head of the highway department in Oak Bluffs, and Fred LaPiana, director of public works in Tisbury, also plan to meet in the next week in preparation for a joint meeting of the boards of selectmen.
Selectmen from both towns have said the Martha's Vineyard Commission would be the natural choice for leadership on the issue. Executive director Mark London has met with the citizens group to discuss the commission's role, but no plans have been made.
"One way or another the two towns, the county and the commission will work together, along with other interested parties," Mr. London said yesterday. "The priority for the public hearing is to figure out among ourselves how we are going to work together to get a clear set of questions and to articulate the Island's concerns."