, Gloucester, MA

May 16, 2013

Editorial: Taxpayers owed answers on cost delays on bridge

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The front page of the Sept. 27, 2011, Times brought Gloucester and other Cape Ann residents just the kind of news they didn’t want to hear.

After more than three years of work on a projected three-year project, the lead headline proclaimed: “Bridge work now going to September 2012.” Then, on April 25, 2012, came this gem: “Bridge work: No end in sight.”

More than a year later — and now five years after work on the three-year, initially $8 million A Piatt Andrew Bridge project began – the state Department of Transportation now assures us that this current $26 million-plus bridge repair and restoration effort has entered its final phase with the work that brought back the all-too-familiar lane shutdowns and orange cones last week.

But at the same time – after temporarily and thankfully pulling up work stakes for Memorial Day weekend, DOT officials concede that, yes, the A. Piatt Andrew will remain as a work zone for much of the summer and once again into September, as taxpayers’ costs continue to rise and frustrated Cape Ann visitors and residents alike endure another hefty summer of single-lane delays on the region’s dominant and most important thoroughfare.

As this project has gone forward, the root cause for the time extensions has been completely understandable. Simply put, work crews found the bridge to be in far worse shape than originally thought. And as crews have carried out one set of repairs, they’ve found the need for even more as the project has progressed.

But who’s responsible to missing those needs in the first place? And when one considers that the project began — even with the $8 million price tag — with the declaration the bridge was deemed “structurally deficient” — how bad was it really, given the later findings? Plus, as the project has dragged on year after year, why has no one been able to provide a realistic time line?

All of those questions should be asked by city and state officials alike. For while repairing the bridge — the longest and highest span along the Route 128 loop around metropolitan Boston — has obviously been an essential project, the fact is its soaring cost and now six-year time frame have stretched the patience of Cape Ann residents and taxpayers across the state.

Hopefully, we’ll all have a full explanation and a lot more answers soon.