May 24, 2020

Narrow Flying Place causeway may see rebuilding this spring> Highway joining Beals and Great Wass is old and dangerous

BEALS — The Flying Place causeway, a narrow, dangerous strip of paved highway joining Beals Island to Great Wass Island, may be partially rebuilt this spring to remedy an environmental problem and to accommodate the salmon industry.

Although the Department of Transportation recently repaired a gaping hole in the 150-foot causeway’s wood and cable guardrail system, the man-made overpass remains a bottleneck for highway traffic and an odor problem in the summertime for those who live near the abandoned lobster pound on the causeway’s west side.

Lester Alley, who lives near the Beals Island end of the causeway, said he has seen at least a dozen vehicles become tangled in the old wood and cable guardrails. Although none of the vehicles has gone into the old lobster pound or into Alley’s Bay on the east side, there have been some close calls.

In the last few years, since the Atlantic salmon and lobster industries mushroomed on Great Wass Island, the causeway has become a considerable problem for drivers of tractor-trailer rigs and school buses. In addition to the causeway being limited to one-way traffic for the large trucks, the road at the Wass Island end of the causeway offers little room for the long trucks to enter or leave the overpass.

First Selectman Verlan Lenfestey said the overpass, originally designed about 1935 as a wooden bridge, was built during the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The WPA project “was designed to accommodate horse carts,” he said.

After the wood rotted and washed away, the bridge was replaced by an earth and rock dam that included a small culvert that restricted water flow.

Several years ago, the lobster pound closed and was washed away by ice and tides. Mud flats, previously covered by the pound’s dammed water, were exposed to the heat of summer. The small culvert did little to flush the pools of stagnant water eigher into Western Bay or Alley’s Bay.

Lenfestey expects the DOT to install a large culvert in the causeway this spring. It should be large enough to allow a small outboard boat to pass through from one bay to the other, he said.

Also, he hopes the causeway will be widened “4 to 6 feet. Six feet would be better, but anything will be an improvement.” He has discussed the causeway problem several times with DOT officials at Ellsworth.

Last year, the improvement project was to have begun, but the shortage of state highway and bridge funds wiped out the planned work. “It may not be completed for three or four years, but we hope some work will be done this spring,” he said.

Wayne Ames, maintenance supervisor for DOT, said Wednesday that the transportation improvement program should be funded this year. “To do a proper guardrail job, one side of the causeway needs to be filled” and riprapped. Also, new posts and beam rails would be set into the new gravel fill.

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