Sagamore and Bourne Bridge work update
By: James Kinsella
For commuters, second-home owners, and businesses dreading the resumption of repair work on the Sagamore Bridge—and the traffic delays that stretched into hours—the nightmare may be over sooner than they think.
Scheduled repair work on the deck of the Sagamore Bridge could be completed by the end of April, according to Lawrence T. Davis, assistant manager of the Cape Cod Canal for the US Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that manages the bridges.
Mr. Davis said the Corps hopes to resume the repair work sometime between the middle and end of March. The Corps anticipates the work will take from four to six weeks, depending on weather.
Work will take place seven days a week, with two 10-hour shifts a day.
Once the Corps completes the Sagamore work, it will commence repairs on the Bourne Bridge. The Corps believes that work can be completed in as few as three weeks, possibly ending before the Memorial Day weekend.
The Corps would stop all repair work over the Memorial Day weekend, leaving open the option of returning to the Bourne Bridge to conclude that repair work sometime in June.
The Corps hopes to start steel repair work on the bridges by this fall or the spring of 2011, Mr. Davis said. That work sometimes will entail closing bridge lanes, but it will be nowhere near the extent of the bridge deck work that snarled traffic this past fall.
Mr. Davis, a member of the Canal Area Regional Traffic Task Force, spoke at a task force meeting held yesterday afternoon at the Hyannis Transportation Center.
At that meeting, task force members spoke about and learned of steps planned to ease congestion when the repair work is under way.
The task force then voted to accept a report detailing short-term steps to help ease traffic congestion resulting from the construction. The report will go to Governor Deval L. Patrick and Congressman William D. Delahunt.
Thomas S. Cahir, chairman of the task force and administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, said the steps could ease but not eliminate delays associated with the work.
“We have no panacea,” Mr. Cahir said.
Short-term steps include—
• A plan by the Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Co. to run more buses during peak traffic periods, so as to move commuters more quickly.
• A proposal by Cape Cod Central Railroad to run rail service starting in March from the Mirant Canal Plant in Sandwich to Lakeville, where riders can switch to commuter trains running to and from Boston.
• Better live information about traffic conditions at the Sagamore Bridge.
Steps may include the use of “smart zone” cameras linked to the web that would show traffic both at the bridge and at a spot farther back on the roadway, where traffic may be queuing.
The state Department of Transportation also is considering using blinking electric signs advising motorists of the construction to provide real-time advisories on specific time delays.
The task force also recommended against a couple of other short-term steps under consideration, finding both would severely disrupt traffic in the area.
One would have closed the Exit 1C on-ramp to the westbound lanes of the Mid-Cape Highway. This is the on-ramp near the Christmas Tree Shop just before the Sagamore Bridge.
Under that plan, on-ramp traffic would have been detoured to Exit 2 in Sandwich.
Mr. Cahir said the idea of closing Exit 1C ran into vociferous opposition from Upper Cape residents and businesses.
Closing the ramp at times during heavy travel weekends still might have merit, Mr. Cahir said, but only if well advertised.
Another idea that was nixed would have converted the Sagamore Bridge solely to off-Cape traffic. But that would have detoured traffic trying to get onto the Cape by nine miles.
Tourism officials such as Wendy K. Northcross, president and chief executive officer of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and Marie J. Oliva, president and chief executive officer of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, emphasized the need to get information out about the planned repair work, peak hours of delay, and duration of the work.
Paul T. Nelson, a transportation planner at the state Department of Transportation who has been working with the task force, said he would be issuing press releases about the start and progress of the repair work.
Mr. Cahir said the task force would meet again about two weeks before the bridge repairs resume to help get the word out.
Tony Guthrie, resort manager at the Wequassett Inn in East Harwich, emphasized the importance of working closely with the Boston media, so as to not scare off potential tourists.
“The lifeblood of the Cape is tourism,” Mr. Guthrie said.
Mr. Davis, of the Army Corps of Engineers, said cold weather would not necessarily delay some of the Sagamore repairs, although snow would.
“Let’s pray for good weather,” Ms. Northcross said.
Taking the long view, Mr. Cahir said there needs to be real discussion about the construction of replacement bridges, though any such projects are likely at least a decade away.
Clay Schofield, a transportation engineer at the Cape Cod Commission who is a member of the task force, anticipates a bridge replacement study will get underway next year.
As uncomfortable as the traffic congestion has been, Mr. Cahir said, it “brought attention to an issue that needed attention.”
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