Army Corps Recommends Newer, Wider Cape Bridges

Oct 7, 2019

The Army Corps of Engineers released a long-anticipated, nearly 200-page report late last week that officially calls for the replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges with two new bridges.

Army Corps Deputy District Engineer Scott Acone says the Corps is recommending building two bridges that will be almost three times as wide than what's there now.

Each new bridge will have three lanes in both directions. Two will be for "through traffic," while each will have what the Army Corps is calling an "auxiliary lane." The auxiliary lane will allow drivers to slow down to exit the highway or to speed up to meet the other cars on the bridge. The idea is to keep traffic flowing quickly.

Each lane would be built wider, to meet federal highway standards.

The Corps is also proposing bike lanes, pedestrian paths, and a barrier between the two opposite lanes of traffic.

The Army Corps recommends building the bridges right next to the current ones, so existing roads won't need to be completely changed.

Acone says the entire project may cost a little more than a $1 billion.

The plan could require the Army Corps to take some land, including near Dunkin' in Bourne, and some at the Market Basket complex in Sagamore.

Acone says the Corps will be working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The latest report is still preliminary, Acone says, so it's difficult to say exactly when the replacement would move forward.

But a big reason that the Army Corps recommends new bridges is to avoid constant repair work. Acone says that they are trying to avoid some work to the Sagamore Bridge coming soon, which gives us an indication that this could start within the next 5 or 6 years.

"There is a significant rehabilitiation of the Sagamore bridge that would be required in 2025, and our hope is to not have to perform that rehabilitation work," Acone said.

As for the old bridges, they will not go anywhere until all work on the new bridges are complete. Eventually they will be demolished and the steel will be scrapped. The Army Corps hasn't figured out the details about how exactly they will come down or how much all that steel will be worth.

Executive director of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, Wendy Northcross, says that the Army Corps recommendation is the right decision when considering some of the alternatives. Other concepts included building a tunnel, or replacing one bridge while repairing the other, even building a third bridge.

"Literally after a decade of discussion and public input on all levels of the government, we feel very confident that this recommendation is the best course of action, the best we could have hoped for," Northcross said.

Northcross also said that the two bridges are a symbolic entrance to the Cape. They are on postcards and calendars. Northcross says that they'll now have an opportunity to redesign that gateway and she hopes people get involved.

This report is a draft decision. The draft is available at Capecodcanalbridgesstudy.com.

The Army Corps has planned a a number of community meetings for public comment:

- 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.

The Army Corps is looking at a final recommendation in February.

Also an interesting piece: the Army Corps is taking climate change into consideration. They are building it seven feet higher than both the Bourne and Sagamore bridges are now to accomodate for sea-level rise.