As city dwellers, we all take certain things for granted.
Emergency services, street lights, and trash pick-up would all be a few of these things. A well maintained infrastructure would also have a place on that list.
When streets, sidewalks, or sewer lines need repair, we expect the city or the state to be right there to make those repairs. Taxes are paid at the municipal, state and federal level to insure that this happens.
Two years ago, the Bridge Street 1A Reconstruction Project began. Construction teams of all kinds have come and gone after ostensibly completing their portions of the project. On some sections of the street, attractive brick sidewalks have been completed. Period lighting has been installed. Other sections feature no sidewalks, lines of uninstalled curbing, and pedestrian crossing points with no crosswalks.
The project has been standing idle all winter and now seems to stand on the precipice of legal action by the city against Newport Construction.
Ceramaloy Carbide Sharpening Co. sits on the corner of Bridge and Lathrop streets, and has been in business there for 45 years. Owner Sharon Martin has been watching this project from the beginning.
"Initially they did a good job. Now, it is nothing but delays. Our business was affected in the beginning, but so much now," Martin said.
Martin would like to see the project finished as soon as possible but says, "our doors are open no matter what."
"I don't know whose fault it is, but supposedly they'll finish in the spring," Xerras said of the delays. He also offered support for Ward 2 Councilor Mike Sosnowski, mentioning help with a small parking issue the construction had created.
On Lathrop Street, where construction equipment and supplies have often been staged, Jared Robinson and Erin Cyr are beginning to wonder just who is responsible for the problems and have made calls and sent emails in an attempt to gather information.
They shared some information and emails sent to city and state officials with me. They also showed me some growing cracks in their home that they believe were caused by the heavy equipment and trucks that frequent the front of the house.
Robinson has spoken with MassDOT representatives and has come to belief that the delays are more the fault of the city than any other entity. The state has encouraged that belief.
"There is a definite breakdown of communication between the city and the state. The state tells us one thing, and the city another. I am worried about this potential lawsuit. It will only set us further back," says Robinson.
Cyr sees it all, "as a huge quality of life issue. When your neighborhood looks like a war zone, it can affect the way people behave," she said.
Lathrop Street does indeed look rough, as do some sections of Bridge Street. Both residents and business owners have been waiting patiently for the project to finish.
I am not here to say who is at fault — if only I were that smart. Suffice it to say that, as in all other aspects of life, there is probably blame to go around.
We can only hope that all parties can step back from the abyss of litigation to take a long breath. There are no problems too big that a little earnest and forthright conversation cannot solve.
Those that live, work, and commute on Bridge Street and its surrounding neighborhoods deserve nothing less.