Business Leaders Applaud Army Corps Canal Bridges Recommendation

HYANNIS – Local business leaders are applauding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommendation to replace the aging Bourne and Sagamore Bridges.

After years of study and review, the federal government will move forward with replacing the aging spans that carry vehicular traffic across the Cape Cod Canal.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the formal announcement Thursday in a media release that said the plan will call for building two new bridges with four travel lanes each and 2 additional auxiliary lanes for acceleration and deceleration.

Both new bridges would also include appropriate bike and pedestrian access.

The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce has been working for a decade to promote the replacement of the two bridges and CEO Wendy Northcross said they are gratified with the Army Corps recommendation.

“This is an economic necessity for Cape Cod,” Northcross said. “We have literally two roads in an out. Fortunately, we have that railroad bridge too.”

Northcross said there were many options that could have been recommended that did not include the replacement of both bridges.

“We are thrilled, absolutely thrilled that the decision has come down for the replacement of both bridges,” she said.

Northcross said the announcement has made some of the frustration of the last few years worth the hassle.

“We need to have well-maintained, well-functioning transportation infrastructure to maintain Cape Cod as a real place, and a viable place for people to live and work and take a vacation,” Northcross said.

She said there was support from nearly every level of the community for the replacement of the bridges from local governments all the way up to elected federal officials.

“People have been very receptive, very willing to solve the problem and very much rowing in the same direction,” Northcross said.

Northcross expects there to be challenges moving forward throughout the construction and roadwork process.

“But I think we have terrific engineers that are working on these projects and we have learned a lot over the last couple of decades on how to quickly make roadway improvements without making a lot of pain for people,” she said.

“And I think by the time we get shoveled into the ground I think we are going to be impressed with MassDOT can present as a workaround so that we can keep traffic flowing to the best of our abilities.”

Northcross believes new bridges can also lead to a robust year-round economy and development of a Blue Economy, utilizing technology and local water assets.

“[It can help transition] our kids into careers here and that they will want to stay because there is great opportunity,” she said. “And having that reliable and safe transportation system is a big part of that.”

Meetings to gather public comment on the plan will be held beginning this month on Cape Cod, the South Shore and in Boston.

The Draft Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Report (MRER) and Draft Environmental Assessment are available for review on the website at https://www.CapeCodCanalBridgesStudy.com under the “Documents” tab.

The Corps will accept public comments on the recommendations in the draft bridge study through Nov. 1, 2019.

The existing bridges were constructed 84 years ago and require increasingly more frequent repair and maintenance, which is costly and causes significant impact to traffic crossing the Cape Cod Canal, the Corps said in a statement.

At the end of the public comment period, the Corps will address issues raised by the public and finalize the documents.

The report will also undergo an independent external peer review and be submitted to Corps headquarters in Washington D.C. for decision in February 2020.

At the four evening meetings registration will start at 6 p.m. There will be an open house from 6 – 6:30 p.m. with information posters and Corps subject matter experts on hand to answer questions.

An overview of the study recommendations will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by a question and answer session.

Public comments can be submitted at the public meetings or online at: www.CapeCodCanalBridgesStudy.com.

Corps public meetings are scheduled for:
– Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, Bourne High School auditorium, 75 Waterhouse Road, Bourne, Mass.
– Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, Plymouth South High School Performing Arts Center, 490 Long Pond Road, Plymouth, Mass.
– Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Federal Building auditorium, 10 Causeway Street, Boston, Mass. Registration and open house at 1 p.m. Meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. 
– Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, Nauset Regional High School auditorium, 100 Cable Road, Eastham, Mass.                                               
– Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center, 744 West Main Street, Hyannis, Mass.

Throughout the process, the Corps and MassDOT have collaborated to ensure Cape Cod residents and visitors have reliable transportation routes to and from Cape Cod.

The MassDOT study examined options at a conceptual level such as modified and improved highway interchanges, and improvements for pedestrian, bicycle and transit access in order to improve multi-modal travel.

The report includes analytical findings, a recommended plan of transportation improvements (short-term, medium-term and long-term), preliminary cost estimates for these improvements, and a comprehensive implementation plan for the recommended improvements.

The bridges, both 396-feet-long and with vertical clearances of 135 feet at mean high water, were constructed as part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration under a program entitled the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. 

They have become structurally obsolete and need significant maintenance work each year, creating major traffic delays over both spans.

The bridges replaced drawbridges that were in place from 1914 to 1935.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the CapeCod.com NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.



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