Economic Worries Raised Over Narrows Project
By: Alex Scofield
The engineers responsible for the design and construction of a new bridge between Bourne and Wareham told selectmen on Tuesday evening that work on the project is tentatively slated to begin in the early part of next year.
Matthew Mullally, a civil engineer with AECOM in Concord, told selectmen and an audience of Bourne residents that the scheduled advertising date for the project was September 2010, when they anticipated that the permit they applied for the United States Coast Guard would be approved.
Mr. Mullally said AECOM applied for the permit last September, and expected it would take about a year for it to be granted.
He told selectmen that designs for replacement of the Cohasset Narrows Bridge, formally called the Walter H. Dalton Memorial Bridge, were about 90 percent complete and would be finalized over the next six months.
The $28 million bridge project is a part of Massachusetts’s Accelerated Bridge Program; 80 percent of the project would be paid for through federal funding and the rest would be paid for by the commonwealth.
If all goes according to schedule, the bridge would be completed in the summer of 2012.
The new bridge would be 350 feet long and 71 feet wide, about 22 feet wider than the current bridge.
It would consist of four 12-foot-wide travel lanes, as well as six-foot-wide sidewalks and a new four-foot-wide shoulders.
The bridge would be about one foot higher at the center and decrease in grade to about four inches higher at either end.
The limits of the work would extend the westernmost entrance of the old Penner’s Place Restaurant on the northern side, and to the old gas station on the southern side.
Selectman Donald J. Pickard asked the engineers if it was possible that, when advertising the project, it would be possible to offer incentives for a speedier completion of the work.
He suggested that whatever firm earns the contract work 16-hour days to make sure the bridge was completed as quickly as possible.
Charles J. Miller of the Bourne Shore and Harbor Committee, said he was concerned that the new bridge would not be significantly higher than the old one.
“I don’t think a lot of consideration was put into the marine environment in the design process,” he said.
A higher bridge would make it possible for larger boats to pass under the bridge during high tides.
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino said he had pushed for a higher bridge while the bridge was still in its early design stages, as well.
However, Mr. Mullally told selectman that because the new bridge is part of the commonwealth’s accelerated bridge program, the engineer’s mission was to design a new bridge that was as close as possible in specs to the old one.
Among the major concerns among those present on Tuesday evening were what kind of impact the construction of the bridge would have on the local economy.
Marie J. Oliva, president of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, asked what steps AECOM and the Massachusetts Department of Engineering would take to ensure that the local businesses would not be negatively impacted during construction.
She suggested that signs be put up to alert motorists about the presence of nearby local businesses.
Ms. Oliva also asked if trucks and recreational vehicles, like RVs and campers, would be able to cross the bridge during construction.
Mr. Mullally said that considering the travel lanes on each side would be extended six inches during construction, he believed that crossing the bridge would not be an issue for larger vehicles.
Selectman Jamie J. Sloniecki asked that extra traffic signs urging caution be placed on Head of the Bay Road, which runs from Wareham to Bourne, as he expected many more motorists would be traveling on that road during bridge construction.
Thomas P. Lanahan, who, with his wife, Jean M. Lanahan, owns Buzzards Bay Marina and the adjacent Eastwind Lobster Restaurant, said he was particularly concerned about access to his businesses.
Mr. Lanahan said construction would impede motorists traveling from Wareham from entering his businesses. He said potential customers would have to travel past the entrance of the marina and around the West Rotary in order enter his property during construction.
He said he hoped that increased signage, as well as a police detail officer, would be put in place to ensure that motorists would still find his establishments.
The entrance to Mr. Lanahan’s businesses would be pushed back 10 feet on its western edge and extended by 10 feet on the other end, in order to make room for the extended sidewalk.
Another concern of Mr. Lanahan’s was AECOM’s plan to push back the abutments of the bridge back by 10 feet, which, he believed, would increase the speed of tidal flow from Buttermilk Bay into his marina, and make it a less attractive spot for boat owners.
However, Mr. Mullally responded that by pushing the abutments back, the area through which the water flowed would be increased, and hence it would flow more slowly.
Mr. Lanahan said after Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting that he still had major concerns about his businesses’ ability to survive what could be an 18-month construction project.
“We’re hanging on by our toenails here,” Mr. Lanahan said.
However, Mr. Lanahan said he was dedicated to making sure his marina and restaurant continue to thrive throughout the construction process and into the future.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to keep our place right where we are now,” he said.
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