Resolutions Offered for Bridge Planking

It is a frequently asked question, especially on social media platforms: “When will the Bike Path open?” The question is not regarding existing phases for the Mattapoisett bike path, those sections merging into Fairhaven to the west or Marion to the east. No, the question is asked in relationship to Phase 1b and the heralded bridge across scenic marshland and the Eel Pond breach, a section being called the Shining Tides pathway given its location along the YMCA property of the same name.

            Quick historical note: In the 1992 publication from the Mattapoisett Historical Society Walking Tours of Mattapoisett penned by Francis Rowlands, the YMCA building was once a restaurant named the Shining Tides.

            The bike path bridge took months to design and even longer to be vetted by the Conservation Commission and Planning Board, given the sensitive and jurisdictional spaces that would ultimately be impacted by construction. But the town and the supporters of the bike path leaned in with money and invested time pursuing grants and a commitment from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation in the form of money and construction responsibility.

            When White Construction was hired by MassDOT to complete the bike path’s Phase 1b, all eyes were aimed not on the construction itself but on the “when” this phase would be opened for all to enjoy. Alas, trouble in the form of defective bridge planking was discovered, bringing the slow but steady progress (due to the pandemic) to a grinding halt. Now some eight months since that discovery, a resolution to the planking issue has been offered by the state and accepted by Mattapoisett.

            A recent meeting between MassDOT, its engineering partners and Mattapoisett Select Board Chairman Jordon Collyer and Town Administrator Mike Lorenco was virtually held on November 23. MassDOT’s team presented the town with four options geared to resolve the issue of defective bridge planking. During the November 22 meeting of the Select Board, Collyer had commented, “I intend to hold their feet to the fire to get what we want.” He also hoped that once a resolution was in play, additional substantial delays could be avoided.

            In a follow-up with Collyer, he said that really only one option was viable in his view. That option was to use planking (a laminated wood product designed for outdoor exposed conditions) 18 inches wide and 5 inches thick with supports affixed to the underside of each plank. The failed material is thinner and wider and uses a different support mechanism.

            A letter affirming the town’s acceptance of that option was to be sent immediately to the state. Collyer cautioned that supply-chain issues may come into play, but that agreement to concurrent construction processes may help to compress any further delays.

            No one is ready to give an opening date estimate for this much anticipated recreational space but with a resolution now accepted by the town progress of a sort has been made.

By Marilou Newell

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