People of a certain age, as the expression goes, will recall a time not all that long ago when traveling the last several miles on the western approach to the Bourne Bridge was anything but a breeze.
Plans had called for a multi-lane divided highway, to be known as Route 25, to extend from Route 495 to the bridge.
But the owner of a piece of land crucial to the roadway took exception to the plan.
So for years, those traveling to the Cape via the Bourne Bridge would be zipping along as they had been for hours, coming over expressways from points hundreds of miles north, west and south…
…Only to hit the moment of instant slowdown where Route 25 suddenly ended, and they would be shunted onto the Cranberry Highway through Wareham, a distinctly non-expressway experience.
While we know of no scientific polling conducted on the matter at the time, probably at least 90 percent of those people in those Cape-bound cars did not want to be there.
And many of the people who lived on nearby streets and roads likely were not thrilled to have to routinely navigate the seasonal wall of traffic running down the heart of their community.
But at least one group was at least moderately happy, if not delighted, with the longtime detour: people with businesses along Cranberry Highway.
For them, the tourists creeping along the highway were about as close to a captive market as they could reasonably wish for in a free country with a capitalist system.
Businesses on Main Street in Buzzards Bay also got a bite at the captive tourist apple before the on-ramps to the Bourne Bridge beckoned.
And it worked both ways: tourists leaving the Cape would face the same crawl through Buzzards Bay and Wareham on their way back to the expressway.
Eventually, the land issue was resolved. Route 25 was connected directly to the Bourne Bridge. Traffic on the Cranberry Highway plummeted.
Echoes of that episode in Cape Cod traffic life now can be heard with the release of an open letter by the owners of the Christmas Tree Shops store in South Sagamore.
The letter, written by property owners Jeffrey and Gregory Bilezikian, criticizes part of a proposal put forward by the Cape Cod Canal Region Transportation Study Group.
The Bilezikians take issue with a recommendation to move the Exit 1C entry ramp—which now enters the westbound lanes of the Mid-Cape Highway virtually next to the store—about three-quarters of a mile to the east.
For more than 30 years the on-ramp actually has provided access to and from the store’s parking lot.
The Bilezikians don’t want to see that change.
In making their case, they write about the continuing benefit of the store to the area economy—a workforce of 50 employees with a total of $1 million paid in annual salaries—as well as the benefits to the community over time from the store, which opened in 1985.
In that time, they said, the store has resulted in overall contributions of $3.9 million to Social Security, and overall payments of $12 million in sales tax and $900,000 in property tax.
Although unsaid, the Bilezikian family also likely has realized a lot of money from the store over the decades. That’s fine: people go into business to make money. And the Christmas Tree Shops is a business.
Were many of us in the Bilezikians’ shoes, we would have written the same letter.
Losing the direct access between the on-ramp and the store parking lot almost certainly will cut into the store’s business: maybe a little, maybe a lot.
The Bilezikians are trying to keep what they have, or at least minimize the damage.
Still, at the end of the day, the ramp should be moved east and provided with a longer acceleration lane, if simply for reasons of safety.
Anyone who is reading these words and who has sought, as a driver, to enter the Mid-Cape Highway at that on-ramp probably has had at least one close call from a vehicle or a truck that was flying down the hill to the east before racing up toward the Sagamore Bridge.
There’s not much room to maneuver upon entry—especially if the driver hurtling westward is not familiar with that tight area on the highway just east of the bridge.
The Christmas Tree Shops store is an obvious draw. Many people already are very aware that it’s there; signage back east on the Mid-Cape Highway certainly could help alert those drivers unfamiliar with the store to its pending proximity.
Holding drivers hostage to the current layout for the economic benefit to business owners and employees is unfair.
Regardless of what other changes end up getting made in the area of the canal bridges, shift the exit. The store will survive. Drivers will be safer.