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Lower the bridges? Narrow the Cape Cod Canal? Chamber says it may be necessary

The Bourne Bridge
Liz Lerner
The Bourne Bridge

The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce says residents and businesses need the new Bourne and Sagamore bridges, without delay — even if it means rethinking the purpose of the canal.

After the state failed twice last year to win federal grants to replace both bridges, Gov. Maura Healey’s administration decided to seek funding using a phased approach, with the Sagamore built first.

Chamber CEO Paul Niedzwiecki says if federal funds aren’t approved soon, maybe the bridges should be made lower, and the crossings narrower, to save money on the $4.5 billion project.

“If the governor’s application for the Sagamore is unsuccessful, we need to have serious discussions about the viability of the canal's mission as it currently exists,” he told CAI in an interview. “Because from the Chamber's perspective, Cape Codders are more important than cruise ships.”

If the canal were limited to smaller boats, it could have lower bridges that are more like causeways, he said. And the canal could be narrowed at the crossings, like the bump-outs on a sidewalk.

“You see this on main streets, like Main Street Hyannis,” he said. “They have bump-outs that make crossing that street easier to do. I think you could do something similar with the canal, maybe more of a causeway bridge.”

He said such changes should make building the bridges less expensive and would allow easier crossing of trains for future train service.

The chamber hasn’t calculated how much money would be saved with lower, shorter bridges.

Niedzwiecki said the chamber supports the state’s plan as it stands today, but a lengthy delay is not an option. The region can’t wait another generation for the bridges to be replaced, he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicated in a 2020 report that the Sagamore Bridge would need major rehabilitation starting in 2025 and the Bourne in 2029.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.