Cape Cod Bridges Dubbed 'Obsolete'
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced earlier this month that two “functionally obsolete” Cape Cod, Massachusetts, bridges needed to be replaced.
The decision comes after five years of continuous state and federal engineers debating what would be the most cost-effective solution for the Bourne and Sagamore crossings.
About the Bridges
Both the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges have a steel through arch design, were built in 1935 and received rehabilitation services in 1981.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in a draft report Thursday, said it would be most cost-effective to completely replace the Bourne and Sagamore bridges rather than rehabilitating them: https://t.co/TCD8Y2vpwA— WBUR (@WBUR) October 4, 2019
The Sagamore Bridge crosses over Cape Cod Canal on US-6 in Sagamore, Massachusetts. The largest span of the bridge runs roughly 616 feet long with a 40-foot-wide deck width and totals 1,408 feet in length. According to Bridgehunter, the bridge serves about 52,000 vehicles daily. In a September 2017 inspection report, the overall condition rating of the bridge was reported to be fair.
The Bourne Bridge also crosses over Cape Cod Canal but on MA-28 in Bourne, Massachusetts. The largest span of the bridge also runs roughly 616 feet long with a 40-foot-wide deck width and totals 2,384 feet in length. This bridge is reported to see an average of 43,500 vehicles per day. In an October 2016 inspection report, the overall condition of the bridge was reported to be in poor condition.
Both built with a design life of 50 years, the now 84-year-old structures have been deemed structurally deficient and “functionally obsolete” by the Corps.
“As the bridges and their components continue to age, the cost of operation and maintenance and periodic rehabilitation slowly escalates,” the Corps added in its most recent report regarding the infrastructures’ future.
During the five years of contemplating what would be best practice for the bridges, the Corps were reported to have considered various bridge configurations, tunnels, causeway, and even considered filling the canal and redirecting marine traffic all together.
The most recent pictures submitted by the Corps of the two bridges reveal pitted concrete and rusted metal.
What’s Happening Now
As a result of the decision to replace the bridges, the Army Corps of Engineers has released a $1 billion draft recommendation for the construction of two new bridges.
“The economic analysis suggests that fixing the current bridges as components deteriorate will lead to greatly increased costs, particularly costs for travelers delayed in traffic,” a draft report says. “This study has determined that providing two new highway bridges would be the most cost-effective means of providing safe and reliable crossings.”
Slated to be built along the inland side of each existing structure, the new infrastructure projects are expected to have four travel lanes, two added lanes for merging traffic and a median separating the on-Cape and off-Cape-bound traffic, reports the Boston Globe.
The new bridges also plan to have separate lanes for bicycles and pedestrians.
While the agency anticipates a timeline for the new structures to be built, the Sagamore Bridge is already scheduled for a $185 million rehabilitation as early as 2025, while the Bourne Bridge is slated for a $210 million rehabilitation as soon as 2029, with no road closures.
However, in addition to the estimated $601 million needed to replace the bridges, the project will require the Army Corps to purchase land adjacent to the existing structures, an endeavor slated to require 15 acres and cost more than $15 million.
“This is the best-case scenario,” said Wendy Northcross, Chief Executive of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
In comparison, CBS News reports that a repair endeavor would cost $395 million, but also require 760 days of lane closures and 310 days of full bridge closures, creating what Northcross described as, “an economic hit to the solar plexus.”
In order for the project to move forward, five public meetings will be held throughout October on the Cape and will be accepting public comments until Nov. 1. The Corps hopes to finalize the replacement recommendation by February 2020.