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A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.It's commentary on the unique people, wildlife, and environment of our coastal region.A Cape Cod Notebook commentators include:Robert Finch, a nature writer living in Wellfleet who created, 'A Cape Cod Notebook.' It won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

Instead of a Third Bridge onto Cape Cod, How About a Reality Experience

composite: falmouth patch/ Let Ideas Compete

Unless you haven’t been listening to local news over the past few months, or if you’ve just arrived for the summer on our overcrowded peninsula, you’ve no doubt heard about the state’s proposal for a third bridge over the Cape Cod Canal.

It was just a few years ago that the state rebuilt the approach to the Sagamore Bridge, a project that was also designed to relieve seasonal congestion. Now, though, the state apparently feels a new bridge is necessary, in order to further relieve congestion that was likely caused, at least in part, by the increased ease of access created by the new Sagamore approach. In the state’s proposal, the new bridge would be built with private funds next to the existing Sagamore Bridge. It would be a toll road, one-way onto the Cape, with Sagamore Bridge becoming a one-way non-toll bridge off the Cape. Confused? Well, you’re not the only one.

Most of the discussion about the third bridge proposal has centered on whether it’s a good idea to have it built with private investments, not whether another bridge is a good idea in itself. Actually, private investment of public projects has a long history in this country. The entire national rail system was built in the 19th century with private capital. The Cape Cod Canal itself was built a hundred years ago with the private investments of business mogul August Belmont.

The question for me is whether this proposal represents another short-term solution to relieve traffic congestion at a specific point with a project whose long-term consequence is to increase the general traffic problem. “Let’s build this bridge,” its proponents say. “Let’s make it possible to bring even more cars onto the Cape even faster!”

And then what? What infrastructures are being proposed to help the Cape’s towns deal with the increased numbers of cars an additional bridge would eventually bring? Apparently that’s not the state’s problem.

The absurdity of such an approach was satirized a few decades ago when local vehicles began sporting bumper stickers that read “Cape Cod Canal Tunnel Pass,” a hoax that was actually believed by a large number of commuters and vacationers. 

In the spirit of such “solutions,” I offer this proposal: Build the third bridge – heck, even a fourth bridge. Double-barrel Route 6 all the way from Bourne to Provincetown. Then build another bridge across Cape Cod Bay from Provincetown to Boston. That way drivers from Boston could simply ride in an endless circle from Boston to the Cape and back, never stopping, or even slowing down, except perhaps to deposit a tourist tax at toll booths.

Too absurd, you say? Well, then, consider this real-world solution to a congestion problem that might be applied to the Cape’s situation. Several years ago Utah’s Zion National Park realized that it was becoming overcrowded to the detriment of its environment and its visitors’ park experience. Instead of putting up signs that said, “SORRY – PARK FULL” – someone had the brilliant idea of building a Zion Canyon Theater at the park entrance, where visitors were given the option of a giant-screen virtual experience of the park instead of an actual one. Apparently enough would-be-visitors chose the digital option over the real one that congestion in the park was significantly relieved.

So perhaps instead of building more bridges to the Cape, with all the increased traffic that would ultimately bring, it might make more sense to install giant screens at the Canal, giving visitors the same option of a digital, congestion-free vacation “experience.” Here’s a suggestion for a title: REALITY CAPE COD – NO WAITING.

Have a nice summer, folks!

Robert Finch is a nature writer living in Wellfleet. 'A Cape Cod Notebook' won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.