Our View: Roads And Bridges


Roads can have many different meanings and purposes. They are, first and foremost, ways to get from one place to another. A road can be an eight-lane superhighway or a narrow dirt path. A familiar road can provide comfort and assurance that home is nearby. A foreign road can be scary and intimidating. A road can bring people together or divide them. Roads can take us to new and exciting places or bring us where we don't want to go.

This week brings three examples of roads in the news, each important to its community in its own way.

In Harwich, officials are considering a change to a key intersection — the meeting of two roads — that is long overdue. When drivers traveling north on Chatham Road meet Route 39, those turning left must gingerly inch out to see oncoming traffic to the west over bushes and a tree that block the view. This has been a problem for years, and it's remarkable that there haven't been more serious accidents at the spot. Squaring off the intersection seems like a logical and relatively simple solution, although anytime this sort of change involves intruding on private property, albeit a tiny bit, it can be problematic. It behooves officials to immediately open dialog with the neighbor and find the financing to make the change. It shouldn't depend on being added to the capital plan, which can take years; it's a safety issue that should be mitigated as soon as practical.

In Chatham, the select board put off a decision on prohibiting parking on some portions of Cow Yard Lane, a town landing that has been overrun the past few summers as people discover that it provides free access to the admittedly tiny town beach. Instead, the board assigned the task of looking at parking at all town landings to a new study committee. Good move. Landings are one of the country's oldest forms of roads — ways that end at the water and provide access to the general public. Their free use by all should be protected. We'll see what recommendations the new group comes up with.

Finally, nobody quite knows why some of the bridges across Route 6 were originally painted in bright colors, but they seem to be universally popular. The good news this week is that the pink bridge, which carries Freemans Way over the highway, will remain pink, despite concerns that repair and restoration work would eliminate the distinctive hue. Families will continue to be able to mark their progress toward the Outer Cape by the color of the bridges they've passed. Thus the crossing of the two roadways in a delightful and utilitarian manner.

Roads. We all use them, our economy depends on them, and it's incumbent on local government to ensure that they are safe, accessible and in good repair.