Bourne wants a seat at the table when any discussions are held relative to replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges.
Town officials said they believe they bring a singular viewpoint to the project, which will impact Bourne residents much more than folks in any other town on the Cape.
The issue of bridge replacement was addressed by the Bourne Board of Selectmen during its remote meeting July 21. Board members agreed unanimously to have Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi write a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation stating the town’s position that Bourne’s voice needs to be heard at every step of the way.
“All of the traffic, everything that’s associated with the project, will impact our town,” selectman James L. Potter said. “It won’t necessarily impact other towns, and just for those reasons we need to be involved.”
One suggestion Mr. Potter floated during the meeting was the idea of having a separate lane on each bridge, what he referred to as a local lane just for Bourne residents. He said a big problem right now is that, because Bourne is divided by the Cape Cod Canal, residents have to get on a highway to access the other side of town. A local lane, he said, would be “an opportunity to put the town together.”
“Even if there was just the one lane that’s the local lane or road that connects our town, that would greatly impact our town in such a positive way. You don’t have to get back on a highway to get to the other part of the same town,” he said.
On July 7, a new memorandum of understanding was signed that officially transferred ownership of the replacement Sagamore and Bourne bridges from the Army Corps of Engineers to MassDOT.
Under the new memorandum, MassDOT accepted ownership of the new canal bridges and agreed to perform the work required to replace the existing Bourne and Sagamore bridges, which were completed in 1935.
Selectman George G. Slade said discussion of having MassDOT include a local road in its plans for the new bridges was “probably beyond the scope of what we want to do here.” Mr. Slade agreed Bourne needs to have a voice in the project planning, since the town offers a unique perspective.
“We want to be not somebody that’s going to sit by and be walked over, but I think we do need to make them understand that we would like a seat at the table, we would like to see this go forward and we want a good product at the end,” he said.
Mr. Schiavi suggested Bourne’s first step should be to hold its own meeting with MassDOT to outline the town’s thoughts and concerns regarding the project. Mr. Schiavi cautioned that issues raised by Bourne “will get drowned out at the larger table where they’re collecting those regional inputs.”
People in Bourne, Mr. Schiavi said, think of the bridges more pragmatically than people in other towns whose main thought is how to get across “as fast as I can and not get stuck in traffic.”
“For those of us in Bourne, we have to think of those bridges every day. Can I get to work? Can I get my children to school? Can I get my children to their football game? Can a public safety call be reached in a reasonable amount of time?” he said.
The national office of the Army Corps of Engineers issued a Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Report in April. In that report, the Army Corps formally adopted the New England District’s recommendation to construct two new bridges that conform to modern highway design standards.
The New England District’s draft report concluded that the two 85-year-old bridges are structurally deficient and in need of replacement. The draft report recommended new structures that will include four travel lanes and two acceleration/deceleration lanes built to modern highway standards. The bridges would also be built with appropriate bike and pedestrian access.
Selectman Peter J. Meier suggested the town seek out mitigation options as part of the replacement project.
Mr. Meier noted the Buzzards Bay fire station on Main Street services the Five Corners area as well as the public schools off Trowbridge Road. All are on the opposite side of the canal from the station, and emergency response times could be delayed with bridge construction underway, he said.
“That’s where all the traffic and impacts are going to be, over there,” he said.
The town is in the process of getting a new fire station built on the south side of the canal. Mr. Meier suggested the state might help with the cost of the new station, similar to what was done when the Sagamore Beach fire station, which opened in 2006, was built.
“If we can get them to help, and get the station built sooner, they can pay down some of the debt service on it. It’s a win-win for both of us,” he said.