Decision time near on Cape bridges
Pollack says state backs new, six-lane structures
THE TOP TRANSPORTATION OFFICIAL in the Baker administration said on Monday that she would like to see the two bridges crossing the Cape Cod Canal and the surrounding road networks replaced as part of a joint federal-state effort.
At a meeting of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack confirmed what state officials have been hinting at for some time. She would prefer the US Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges, to build replacement bridges next to the existing structures and leave it to the state to modify the road networks connecting with the new spans on both sides of the canal.
Pollack estimated the cost of replacing the two bridges would be around $1 billion and state officials have estimated the work on surrounding roadways could run into the hundreds of millions. She said the federal government would be responsible for covering the entire cost of the two new bridges if identical replacements are built, but the state might contribute if, as she would prefer, the structures were expanded to include three lanes in each direction as opposed to two lanes in each direction.
The configuration of the bridges would have a major impact on the work on surrounding roadways. If the bridges are expanded to three lanes in each direction, then Route 6 eastbound might have to be expanded to three lanes to avoid a chokepoint at the bridge.
Pollack said the fate of the two Cape bridges is the type of issue that keeps her up late at night worrying. Both bridges were built between 1933 and 1935. They are the primary means for most people to go to and from the Cape and Pollack described them as “functionally obsolete” and in “fair” condition, meaning they are structurally sound but require lots of annual maintenance.
Looking ahead, Pollack said, a major rehab of the bridges is slated to begin as early as 2025 that might prompt lane closures or outright shutdowns of the structures for extended periods of time. Pollack said her goal is to avoid that and proceed more quickly to full replacement.
Pollack said federal funding spending bills that could provide funds for the bridge replacements will come up for debate in 2020, setting a timeline of sorts for federal and state officials to develop a coordinate plan. Both the Baker administration and the Army Corps of Engineers are getting feedback now as they develop their plans, which are expected to be unveiled next year.The transportation secretary said the governor has talked with top officials at the Army Corps and with members of the congressional delegation about replacing the bridges. She indicated communication has been strong, but cautioned that the bridges are not owned by the state.
“We don’t necessarily control our destiny here,” said Robert Moylan, a member of the MassDOT board.