Universal enthusiasm is not greeting the proposed replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges over the Cape Cod Canal.
A number of Bourne residents have expressed concerns over the Army Corps of Engineers’ recommendation that the two spans be replaced. People who live or have businesses within the vicinity of the bridges also have conveyed fears over how construction will impact their property.
The concerns were shared with Army Corps and Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials during a presentation of the Corps’s Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Report on Wednesday, October 16 at Bourne High School. The draft report recommends replacing the two aging spans, as opposed to continuing to keep and repair them.
Army Corps project manager Craig Martin told the audience gathered in the high school auditorium that a number of alternatives, relative to the bridges, were given consideration.
Among the alternatives that the Corps abandoned were: a third bridge in between the current bridges; a tunnel running beneath the Cape Cod Canal; filling in the canal, and a series of low bridges connecting the Cape to the mainland.
All of those alternatives, he said, were considered not viable.
The four alternatives given consideration were: fix-as-fails, which means doing repairs as needed; major rehabilitation of the current bridges as they are currently built; replacement with 4-lane structures; and replacement with 4-lane, plus 2-auxiliary lane bridges. The latter is the Army Corps’s chosen recommendation, he said.
“We believe it is the most fiscally and environmentally responsible plan for access on and off the Cape,” he said.
The cost to build two new bridges, Mr. Martin said, has been estimated at roughly $1 billion.
Replacing the bridges, instead of continuing to repair them, also was the recommendation of MassDOT’s Cape Cod Canal Region Transportation Study Group. The study group issued the results of its five-year study in February.
The draft report recommends 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/pedestrian access.
Former Bourne police officer John Doble was one of several residents who questioned what will happen to their property. Mr. Doble said that his home on Sandwich Road is on the Cape side of the canal and situated directly beneath the Bourne Bridge.
“How much is my property going to be impacted by this construction of the new bridge, and what are the alternatives that we have?” he asked.
Similar statements were made by James Poore of Sagamore and Robert Curtis of Pocasset. Mr. Poore said he lives on Eleanor Avenue, right next door to the bridge, and wondered about the impact of construction over a number years to his property value and his personal well-being.
“A lot of concerns that I’d like to be kept up to date on,” he said.
Mr. Curtis was more direct in his comments. He said that he was not aware that bridge replacement could lead to people losing their homes. The prospect of that happening, he said, he found to be shocking.
“The government today is over-reaching,” he said, “and you start taking people’s homes, I think you’re going to find pushback from the old people on Cape Cod.”
Mr. Martin assured everyone that the bridge project is currently conceptual only and has not entered the design phase. When it does enter the design phase, Mr. Martin said, residents will be alerted and consulted for their input.
“We’re going to be extending our working groups that are going to work with the local abutters to determine the height, size and location of the final bridges,” he said.
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Several town officials addressed the panel and urged them to make sure that the Town of Bourne “has a seat at the table” when discussions are held on bridge design and construction. Selectmen chairman Judith M. Froman noted that building the bridges “directly impacts our daily municipal operations and lives.”
“We request that Army Corps and Mass DOT join with Bourne Board of Selectmen in public sessions to start to work out a public engagement schedule with the various stakeholders locally,” she said.
Town Clerk Barry H. Johnson mentioned that he is also the general manager of the Bourne Recreation Authority. The authority is responsible for Gallo Ice Arena and Bourne Scenic Park. Both facilities are situated in close proximity to the Bourne Bridge, Mr. Johnson said.
“The recreation authority is asking the same thing that the town officials are asking,” he said, “that we be part and parcel of the overall discussions.”
Some residents said they were in favor of a third bridge in between the two current bridges that would have roads connecting to Route 93 and Route 25 off Cape, and Route 6 on the Cape. Others said they supported a series of smaller bridges spanning the canal.
Stephen J. Buckley of Chatham said that whatever decision is made relative to the bridges, equal attention needs to be paid to the Cape’s highway system. Mr. Buckley said that wider bridges will mean more traffic coming out to the Cape. The question, he said, is how new bridges will affect the entire region and not just the canal region.
In addition to Wednesday’s meeting at Bourne High, other Cape meetings will be held: on Thursday, October 17, at Plymouth South High School Performing Arts Center; Tuesday, October 22, at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham; and Wednesday, October 23, at the Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center in Hyannis. Those meetings also begin at 6 PM.
An off-Cape meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 21, at 1 PM, at the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Federal Building on Causeway Street in Boston.
The Corps said it will accept public comments on the recommendations in the study through Friday, November 1.
At the end of the public comment period, the Corps will address issues raised by the public. In addition to public comment, the draft report will also undergo an independent external peer review by members of the private and academic sectors, the Corps said.
A final recommendation on whether to replace or continue to repair the Cape Cod Canal bridges will be contained in the final report that will be submitted to Corps headquarters in Washington, DC, in February 2020.