Replacement of Cape Cod Canal bridges now in state’s hands

Replacement of Cape Cod Canal bridges now in state’s hands

State and federal officials have signed an agreement this week that will make the Massachusetts Department of Transportation the lead agency for the replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges.

Officials from MassDOT and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the latter of which owns the bridges, are scheduled to meet virtually on Tuesday to sign a memorandum of understanding laying out how the two agencies will work together to build two new automobile bridges over the Cape Cod Canal.

A notice sent to town officials on Friday also indicates that the Corps plans to transfer ownership of the bridges to the state. In the past, two agencies have talked about divesting the bridges after construction.

“The MOU is an agreement which states MassDOT and the USACE will work together to plan, permit, fund, construct, demolish and transfer ownership of two new Cape Cod Canal Bridges built to current Federal Highway and MassDOT standards,” the notice read.

The Corps held a yearslong study on the bridges and determined that new ones would need to be erected. The current spans were built in the 1930s to handle cars of the era, which were much smaller than the SUVs and trucks that now cross them regularly. The bridges also have needed increased upkeep, and major overhauls down the road would necessitate substantial closures.

The Corps plans to build two new bridges next to the existing ones. The new bridges would have three lanes in both directions as well as bike lanes and sidewalks. Once completed, the existing ones would be demolished.

The Corps doesn’t have many traffic bridges and the agreement would recognize that the state is better suited for these types of projects. Most of the Corps bridges across the country are much smaller and connect to other infrastructure, such as dams.

“The MOU recognizes that MassDOT is better equipped and experienced at the delivery of bridges of similar characteristics and as such sets MassDOT as the lead agency to deliver the bridges,” the notice read.
The federal government would still end up paying the estimated $1 billion it would take to replace them.

“The parties agree that the funding of the bridges is a federal responsibility and will work together to develop a funding plan and seek congressional acceptance,” according to the notice.

The idea of divesting the bridges to the state has been discussed, because the bridges are such a critical link for the state road network and traffic bridges are not typically part of the federal agency’s core mission.

Bourne officials were excited about the meeting but want to make sure they get a seat at the table, as both bridges are in the town and affect residents’ everyday lives.

Town administrator Anthony Schiavi said having MassDOT lead the way could be a “smoother process” because it also handles the roads that lead up to the bridges, which are also slated to be revamped.

Author: Katy Acheson

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