The last column of the year is one I seldom look forward to, because it is my tradition to elect the Best Worst and the Worst Worst of the year within the confines of Sagaponack.When I adopted this default format, it was simply Best and Worst. But Best became elusive, if not impossible, to find, something only the past could promise more of, and so the competition was refined to trumpet only the worst things that our idyllic little village will endure.
This year, the trophies for both categories are going to just one plan: the “rehabilitation of the Bridge Lane Bridge on Bridge Lane.” Familiars call it Sagg Bridge; sometimes, someone is compelled to clarify that the speaker doesn’t mean White Walls. No, the bridge on Bridge Lane, where children loiter and crabbers hang. They’re going to widen the lanes (for cars) and do away with the sidewalk (for people). As for the removal of the “substandard” sidewalk, I cannot speak rationally on this matter, for it speaks fully for itself.
Infrastructure improvements are the bane of small-town existence, and yet sometimes the commotion caused is what re-galvanizes a wee town from losing its sense of community and self. Team They asserted that most people who hang out on the bridge’s sidewalk are breaking the law anyway. Team Us was flabbergasted by this sort of logic. Team They went on to explain that the quaint, existing railing will be replaced with a State Department of Transportation-approved sort of railing. The new railing will prevent thrill seekers and suicidal individuals from jumping into our tempting and turbulent pond waters. The modern guardrail will be structurally sound and bulky enough to restrain a runaway tractor-trailer.
Team Us continued to scratch our heads.
The reason this proposed project takes both prizes is because the people who are pushing for its rehabilitation are convinced they are doing the best thing for our bridge and for the taxpayer (and the man with the runaway tractor-trailer who shouldn’t really be on the bridge in the first place).
It is the Worst Worst because when we heard the highway superintendent tell us about phase two, he spoke of the project in intractable terms.
I am glad there were real newspaper reporters at the informal meeting that Alex Gregor ran last week. I know I am far too sympathetic to the bridge staying as it is. The beauty of a rural or country road is that it does have limitations, and those limitations are physical in nature, like a pond, and will dictate what sort of load the environment shall bear.
This bridge, as it now stands, is unique because in its structure is the civilized leeway given to people on foot. And in order that a sidewalk can be maintained, the bridge’s design makes the travel lanes narrow. As one neighbor pointed out, the bridge might not now be considered historic—it was built in 1923—but in 20 years, or in 40 years, it will be.
And then came the flood from the audience, asking in one way or another, “Why not just repair it?”