By Laura M. Reckford
State Department of Transportation workers have long had a rule not to do any major road or bridge work on Cape Cod between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The summer exemption takes into account the often five-fold increase in traffic on roads in the region during the summer.
But an exception is being made with work on the Bass River Bridge, which was constructed in 1935 and serves as the divider between Yarmouth and Dennis. The work began this week and is scheduled to last into early July.
The work on the bridge will result in delays on Route 28, one of the Cape’s major roadways, which travels over the bridge.
Mass DOT Spokesman Michael Verseckes said the bridge work came about after a routine inspection showed that there was deterioration due to saltwater to the concrete piers, part of the substructure that holds up the bridge, and so the project was determined to be of a higher priority and “of a more urgent need” and was begun, he said, “out of an abundance of caution.”
“The bridge is still safe to drive over but we do need to expedite these repairs,” he said. “We’re waiving our typical restriction for work on the Cape.”
Verseckes said the state is keenly aware of over the next two months, the Cape’s high season will start up.
“We do understand the impact that tourism has, the influx of folks heading to the cape either weekends or seasonally. We’ll be keeping two travel lanes open at all times,” he said.
He said the first phase of work over the next two weeks will be the only time the sidewalk will be inaccessible.
Verseckes said doing the work now is better than the alternatives, which, he said, include closing the bridge “or something more drastic like routing one direction of travel around it. “
The state DOT’s restriction on summer road work is imposed on its own work. Granting itself a waiver from its own policy is fairly unusual and is something state highway officials try to avoid, Verseckes said. “But in this instance we have to keep this bridge up and running. . . .It’s more in the interest of keeping it open and in serviceable shape for the long term.”
The cost of the project is not yet known but will probably be around $2 million, he said. “These are emergency repairs, done without the typical project development process behind it where everything down to the penny is a known quantity,” he said. “With repairs of this nature, we don’t always know what we’re up against until we actually get into the work itself so once they’re done we’ll know the true cost.”
Verseckes said, other than routine maintenance, this is the first major repair on the Bass River Bridge in the 80 years since it was built.