Don't wait 175 years to address aging bridges

To the editor:

"Some of them [are] as old as 175 years," Selectman Stephen Shatz is quoted as saying of Stockbridge's decaying bridges. So where has the town's leadership been for the past 17 1/2 decades?

It should be common sense that bridges will eventually wear out, yet Stockbridge is "suddenly" facing the prospect of "urgent" repairs along a major state highway that threatens to blow a hole in the budget. Why?

Because generations of leaders entrusted with responsibility for these bridges, and the town finances needed to maintain them, have evidently spent the last 175 years kicking the can down the slowly crumbling road.

If the town leaders had merely set aside $100 worth of $20 coins each year from the opening of a new bridge in 1841 to the Gold Reserve Act in 1934, and saved nothing since then, that gold would be worth about $2.5 million today.

In a town that has been incorporated for over 275 years, one could reasonably assume that such judicious foresight would have emerged over the course of centuries, but alas, no.

Perhaps in wake of this startling shortsightedness, in whatever way it ends up being resolved, the town's leaders and voters will finally resolve to begin setting aside funds for the replacement of the new bridges when the time comes decades from now, and establish a system of periodic inspections — in accordance with the best practices set forth in the National Bridge Inspection Standards 45 years ago — so that problems are no longer raised to the board's attention 10 to 20 years too late.


Michael Pelletier, West Stockbridge