Bridges to Here and There

Like so many of its projects that the Island has seen over the years, the Massachusetts Highway Department’s plan to rebuild the two bridges that span Beach Road between Edgartown and Oak Bluffs is full of hope and promise — and also surprise.

It came as a complete surprise to learn last week that the contractor who was engaged to rebuild the Big and Little Bridges, as they are known colloquially, has outlined a plan to close Beach Road through the end of May. Vineyard officials, including the county manager and Oak Bluffs police chief, turned up this week at a meeting to discuss another bridge project — the Lagoon Pond drawbridge — to register their concern at the prospect of closing Beach Road.

State highway spokesmen were quick to say that no road closure will take place without the approval of town leaders in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.

That is welcome news from the commonwealth, and hopefully selectmen in the two affected towns will be just as quick to respond with an answer: please do not close the road unless absolutely necessary.

Even in the quiet winter months, Beach Road is a key artery that not only links the two towns along the eastern shore side but serves too as access to Sengekontacket Pond for shellfishermen, both recreational and commercial.

Highway officials now say that they can rebuild the bridges while keeping one lane open.

This makes infinitely more sense. Built across a long barrier beach that divides the vast Sengekontacket and Anthier’s Ponds from Nantucket Sound, Beach Road is arguably the most scenic stretch of highway on the Vineyard.

And Islanders should not be deprived of that beautiful drive at any time of the year.