According to the Boston Globe article, the federal government is calling for a complete replacement of the two bridges that cross the Cape Cod Canal, a long-awaited decision that will reshape a crossing that has frustrated generations of travelers between the Cape and mainland. The agency, which controls the bridges, had deliberated for years over what to do about the structures, which are in poor condition and increasingly need major maintenance work that itself creates major traffic headaches. The Army Corps considered a range of proposals, from different bridge configurations, to tunnels, to causeways — even the idea of filling in the canal and directing marine traffic around the Cape.
In the end, officials decided the most practical solution is two new bridges next to the existing spans, likely on the inland side of each. The bridges would have four travel lanes, two added lanes for merging traffic, and, unlike the current crossings, a median separating the on-Cape and off-Cape-bound traffic. The current structures would remain in service until the new bridges open to traffic.
“This is the best-case scenario,” said Wendy Northcross, chief executive of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. She said the bridge work, combined with a massive project by the state to improve roads and intersections leading on and off the Cape, could make a huge difference.
Northcross said that even though the bridge replacement may bring significant traffic disruption at times, the alternative that would have required closing the existing bridges and rehabilitating them in succession would have made it nearly impossible for people to come and go.
“That would have been tragic,” she said. “That would have been an economic hit to the solar plexus.”
The Army Corps said the bridges have gotten to the point where it is more economical to replace them than fix them. And the need for improvement is great; the Corps released a set of pictures from the bridge that included unnerving conditions of pitted concrete and rusted metal.
“As the bridges and their components continue to age, the cost of operation and maintenance and periodic rehabilitation slowly escalates,” the Corps said in its report, describing the existing structures as “functionally obsolete.”
The Army Corps has not laid out a timeline for the replacement. The next steps include holding five public meetings through October on the Cape and in Plymouth and Boston, and accepting public comments until Nov. 1. It hopes to finalize its recommendation early next year.
Read the entire article in Boston Globe. 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.