U.S. Army Corps to pay for Cape Cod replacement bridges

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pay an estimated $1.5 billion to replace the Bourne and Sagamore bridges connecting Cape Cod and mainland Massachusetts under an agreement with the state Department of Transportation.

When construction is finished, ownership of the new bridges will transfer from the corps to MassDOT, according to Tuesday's memorandum of understanding that Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and Army Corps Col. William Conde signed. The commonwealth intends to improve the roads it maintains and owns approaching the bridges and along the canal.

The 85-year-old north-south bridges, about six miles apart, are the only two road links connecting the Cape with the rest of the commonwealth across the Cape Cod Canal,. They provide the only vehicular access to 15 Cape communities with nearly 215,000 year-round residents and a population increase of up to 300% during summer tourist season.

Steel workers repair the Sagamore Bridge in 2012.

Traffic volume has spiked significantly since the 1930s, with trucks and sport utility vehicles in recent years worsening the wear.

“The bridges over the Cape Cod Canal are among the most important transportation structures in the entire commonwealth,” Gov. Charlie Baker said.

The Army Corps' New England District operates and maintains the bridges as part of its ownership and operation of the canal. Last October it called the bridges "functionally obsolete,” saying rebuilding would be more cost-effective than rehabilitating them, and held a round of public hearings.

MassDOT is the lead project delivery agency, the memorandum said. The department and the corps will jointly plan, permit, fund, construct, demolish and transfer ownership of the bridges, which will be built to current federal highway and MassDOT standards.

The corps and MassDOT intend to jointly develop a funding plan and seek congressional acceptance.

U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., whose district includes the bridges, said the deal merges “the best of both worlds,” federal funding and state expertise.

“The Army Corps, proficient as they are in so many things, realized this is a scope from a budgetary and an infrastructure standpoint — building a bridge-— that they weren’t tailored to do,” Keating said. “The commonwealth of Massachusetts, which is responsible for the infrastructure leading to the bridges and away from the bridges, was really in a better position to take on this huge task.”

According to Pollack, MassDOT will consult with city and town officials, and business and community leaders. “This MOU lays out how that process will proceed,” she said.

A MassDOT study examined modified and improved highway interchanges, and improvements for pedestrian, bicycle and transit access.

The spattering of bridges the corps owns nationwide are much smaller and connect to dams and other infrastructure.

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Infrastructure Massachusetts Department of Transportation Commonwealth of Massachusetts Charlie Baker Stephanie Pollack Transportation industry