Woods Hole's bridge to somewhere

Businesses, residents adjust to $7.7 million reconstruction project

Water Street Bridge should be ready for Cape's first big holiday weekend


A bridge not there: Work continues on the Water Street drawbridge, which spans the channel into Eel Pond. A construction supervisor said the rebuilding of the bridge was due.

Photos and story by Sam Pearsall

Despite delays, the $7.7 million Water Street Bridge construction project is expected to be completed just in time for the Memorial Day weekend influx of tourists.

J. F. White Construction Project Manager Chris Vrachos said, “We were ahead of schedule but some major delays from problems with the adjoining building have put us slightly behind.

“But that’s what the schedule requires," he continued, "and we hope to finish on time by the required contract schedule of Memorial Day.”

whbridge2Damage to the foundation of the village's community hall was sustained during construction.

The booking chairman of the Woods Hole Folk Music Society (WHFMS), Clyde Tyndale, explained from his understanding, the Community Hall that holds the society’s regular concerts had sustained some damage from the construction.

Since the foundation of the building was so close to the bridge, it shifted slightly. The building was considered unsafe and had to close for all events during November. During this time, concerts were held at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Redfield Auditorium. Tyndale said, “The whole Woods Hole gang pulled together and WHOI was extremely helpful with keeping our shows going.”

The Community Hall opened back up last week and the WHFMS held its Dec. 14 concert in the hall. “We are just very happy to be back,” Tyndale said.

Since the beginning of September, traffic heading into Woods Hole has been detoured around Eel Pond, a three-minute loop. Traffic goes from School Street to Albatross Street and then up and around to the other end of Water Street. A walking bridge was constructed for bikers and pedestrians to easily bypass the construction without taking this route.

whbridge3You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to find Capt. Kidd with such a well-thought-out sign.

“When people need coffee, bridge construction is not going to stand in the way, especially when a walking bridge is right there,” a busy Coffee Obsession employee said. “There is no place to buy coffee on the other side either."

There was a constant line of coffee-needing customers in the quaint shop. Bank of America, the Post Office, and Pie in the Sky were all bustling with people constantly walking in and out on a recent afternoon.

Just across the other side of the bridge, Water Street does not appear so lively. It’s not uncommon for restaurants and businesses to close for the slow winter season; however, it seems more bleak than usual.

The Woods Hole Market and Phusion both closed for the season. The Fishmonger Café, under new management, is hoping to stay open through the winter. The Captain Kidd restaurant and bar is open year-round as usual and has a large sign posted on top of the building: “Capt. Kidd is Open. Use Foot Bridge.”

While doing some holiday decorating in the bar area, one employee from The Kidd explained that business has not been any slower than past years at this time, regardless of the construction zone right outside their doors. He mentioned when construction first started there were lots of calls asking for directions, but people always seemed to find them.

whbridge4The need for java is no obstacle to the hearty people of Woods Hole.

“With the economy as it is, this might actually be the best year to do this construction which is long overdue,” said Lee Barnum, who works at the Liberty House, a small gift shop that sells clothing and jewelry. The store will be open daily throughout the season from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Barnum said she is used to the “seasonal downgrade” and this year is particularly slow with the construction and the economy, but business “is meeting the expectations we had,” she added.

If the bridge is up and running for Memorial Day as expected, it should be a positive note for local businesses and restaurants that have felt the effects of the down turning economy and the inaccessible bridge this fall and winter.

During the summer of 2007, the Minneapolis bridge collapse tragedy took place and some suggested it sparked an investigation into local bridge conditions. The Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory listed 50 of the Cape’s bridges in July 2007 as "functionally obsolete," including both the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges.

The 55-foot drawbridge on Water Street in Woods Hole was one of six Cape bridges listed as "structurally deficient" and in need of immediate renovations. After almost 70 years of wear and tear, it certainly needed a total makeover.

Although the bridge collapse drew much attention to our local bridges, Vrachos explained, “[rebuilding the Water Street Bridge] was not a result of any accident. It was a requirement,” he said. “It has been in the works for years. This bridge has had many years of service and many repairs to the point where it needed a complete rehab and complete rebuild.”

A Woods Hole shop employee commented on the rust and general safety hazards the bridge posed for pedestrians, mariners, and drivers. “The construction needs to be done, there’s no question. It’s just something we all have to roll with,” Tyndale said.


The view from the Falmouth side. Vehicle traffic has to loop around the village, but pedestrians can cross on a footbridge specially built for the $7.7 million project.


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