Army Corps of Engineers: No Way to Avoid Major Joint Repairs; Traffic Tie-Ups on Canal Bridges

Deputy Canal Manager John McPherson discusses needed repairs to the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges

HYANNIS – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detailed their Sagamore Bridge construction project Tuesday that will restrict the span to one lane in each direction for 54 days this spring.

They also unveiled a separate project for September that will result in similar lane closures on the Bourne Bridge for more than 80 days.

On both bridges, extensive repairs need to be made to roadway joints that have been damaged in recent years.

Several local business officials and lawmakers quizzed the Corps as to why such extensive closures were required and whether the time frame for the work could be shortened.

They said the work will come during some of the most important months for the local tourism industry outside of the summer month.

Army Corps officials said the work on both spans will be conducted in three phases over the course of the contract.

“We hope to beat the schedule that’s shown here,” said Cape Cod Canal Army Corps of Engineers Manager Sean McDonald.

Zoppo Corporation of Stoughton was awarded the $1.7 million contract in November.

In an effort to ease the total lane closure time, McDonald said they will work 7 days a week on double shifts.

There will be no lane restrictions between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

That didn’t appease local officials who said the lane closures will dramatically harm business.

“One of the challenges we have is that there are only 2 ways on Cape Cod,” said McDonald in response to their concerns.

Work on the Sagamore will take place between April 2 and May 25. The Bourne project is scheduled from September 6 to November 28.

Sidewalk improvements and waterproofing will also be conducted on the Bourne Bridge.

Deputy Canal Manager John McPherson said two shifts will work on the project, and could be increased to three shifts as the get closer to Memorial Day.

When asked why three shifts weren’t going to be put on the project from the beginning, he said that would not necessarily mean the project would be done sooner.

McPherson said some down time is needed for product used in the repairs to properly cure.

“Columbus Day is our new Labor Day,” said Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross in pleading for the Bourne Bridge work to begin later in the fall.

“Of everything you’ve explained to me, that worries me the most (the longer Bourne Bridge closure),” said Northcross, who asked if the time frame could be shortened.

Northcross said September has become the second busiest month for Cape Cod businesses.

Corps officials said they were trying to do the work under a controlled situation and not be forced into repairs that could result in even more extensive lane closures.

They also said it would not be possible to move the Bourne project deeper into the fall, or put off the work if a new bridge plan came forward in the near future.

Local real estate agent Tony Guthrie chastised Corps officials, saying small business and the lives of Cape Codders will be impacted by the lane restrictions.

“You have no idea the economic ramifications this will cause. This is a catastrophe,” he said.

“You nod your heads and you say the same thing – we need a plan for a new bridge,” said Guthrie.

“This is going to ruin the spring market on Cape Cod,” he said, calling the project “outrageous.”

Sandwich State Representative Randy Hunt asked the officials when deck replacement would take place on the Sagamore, which will lead to even more lane closures in the future.

They said it all depends on when Congress funds that project, which could be any time in the next couple of years.

Several who spoke also asked the Corps to improve the way they communicate to the public about bridge work.

Using the railroad bridge as an option to alleviate traffic was ruled out for logistic reasons with Cape Cod Canal marine traffic.

While Corps officials started the meeting by saying they would not address current studies underway to evaluate future options for either a new bridge or repairs to the existing spans, they did say the report appears to be leaning toward replacement.

By MATT PITTA, CapeCod.com News Director

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