CONCORD, Mass. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District recently held five public information meetings on the Cape, the South Shore and the Islands on the future of the Cape Cod Canal highway bridges spanning the Cape Cod Canal in Bourne, Massachusetts, and is now working to complete the draft bridge study and draft environmental assessment.
The Corps is conducting a multiyear Major Rehabilitation Evaluation study of the Bourne and Sagamore highway bridges to determine whether major rehabilitation or replacement of either or both bridges will provide the most reliable, fiscally responsible solution for the future. The existing bridges were constructed 83 years ago and require increasingly more frequent maintenance, which is costly and causes significant impact to traffic crossing the Cape Cod Canal.
More information on the Corps bridge study, including the presentation from the public information meetings, is available on the website at www.CapeCodCanalBridgesStudy.com.
The bridge study will result in a Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Report (MRER) evaluating the risk and reliability of the structures as well as the economic impacts/benefits of a number of alternatives including continuation of routine maintenance, major rehabilitation, and bridge replacement. The MRER is comprised of four elements: 1) structural engineering analysis of the bridges; 2) cost estimates for rehabilitation and/or replacement alternatives; 3) economic benefits of the alternatives; and 4) environmental effects of the alternatives.
The initial Corps alternatives include: 1) without project plan (no action, continue to repair bridges as needed); 2) major rehabilitation of each bridge as they currently exist and maintenance of the rehabbed bridges in the future; 3) replacement of each bridge with a new structure built to current authorization of 4 lanes, 2 lanes each way brought up to modern highway standards with appropriate bike/pedestrian access; and 4) replacement of each bridge with a new structure built to include the 4 authorized lanes and 2 auxiliary lanes designed as acceleration/deceleration lanes (entrance/exit) and built to modern day highway standards with appropriate bike/pedestrian access.
During a major rehabilitation the major components needing repairs would be reconditioned or replaced. Each major rehab would be expected to take approximately 3 ½ years to complete and would be done off-season from the latter part of October through mid-May, as much as feasible. These fixes would maintain bridge performance, but would result in a number of traffic delays during the rehab process.
At the public information meetings in December, the Corps received additional suggestions from the public on bridge alternatives that they thought should be considered. These suggestions will be reviewed as part of the MRER study and NEPA process.
The MRER will be a decision document that compares a number of alternatives to determine the most fiscally responsible plan for the future of the two bridges that is also environmentally acceptable. The MRER will not result in a final bridge design for any replacement, nor initiate construction activities, nor guarantee future funding.
As part of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, the Corps is seeking public input and in the coming weeks and months will be reaching out to Federal and state agencies and Federally-recognized Tribes to continue the environmental review process to ensure all appropriate topics are covered within the Draft MRER and Draft Environmental Assessment.
Public comments can be submitted online at: www.CapeCodCanalBridgesStudy.com. Written comments can be submitted to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attn: Cape Cod Bridges Study NEPA Coordinator, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751.
The Corps is responsible for the Bourne and Sagamore bridges from abutment to abutment. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is responsible for approach roads and adjacent infrastructure. MassDOT is completing its own regional multi-modal transportation study of adjacent infrastructure improvements that are designed to ease traffic congestion.
The Corps is developing the Draft MRER and Draft Environmental Assessment on the highway bridges and anticipates the documents will be ready for public review and comment in the summer of 2019. The release of these documents will be followed by public meetings and a final comment period. After that review and public comment the Corps will work to complete the report and anticipates the Final MRER and Final Environmental Assessment will be completed in the winter of 2019/2020.