After seemingly endless failures in raising funds to replace Cape Cod’s old, dilapidated bridges, Gov. Maura Healey is trying something new — trying to get funding for the bridges one at a time.
Healey chose the Sagamore Bridge as her first target in her applications for federal funding this month, her office said in a statement Monday. Her office is finalizing applications, due August 21, applying for $1.45 billion in grants.
The new “phased” approach prioritizes rebuilding one bridge sooner than obtaining funding commitments to replace both bridges, but Healey said her office remains committed to rebuilding both 88-year-old federally owned bridges.
“This first phase will allow us to quickly place shovels in the soil of the Sagamore Bridge, lay the foundation for the Bourne Bridge reconstruction and advance the permitting and design of both bridges,” she said in the statement.
While it’s unclear when Healey will begin lobbying for federal funding for the Bourne Bridge, she said she believes funding a bridge maximizes the chances of progress on the project.
For years, state and local politicians have urged the bridges to be replaced, citing the millions of automobiles that cross them each year, their importance to Cape residents and workers, and their impact on the Cape and state economy .
State officials now estimate the entire project will cost $4.5 billion. The Boston Globe reported, up from last year’s estimate of $4 billion. They also estimate that rebuilding each individual building could take up to eight years, the newspaper reported.
Why Healey prioritizes the Sagamore Bridge
In an email, Healey’s office gave several reasons for wanting to rebuild the Sagamore Bridge first.
The first reason is simply the need for transport. On average, nearly 17,000 more cars cross the Sagamore Bridge than the Bourne Bridge each day globe reported. The Sagamore Bridge also puts motorists directly onto Route 6 – the Cape’s main thoroughfare.
The new Sagamore Bridge will have wider lanes, a side lane and, for the first time, “bicycle and pedestrian shelters,” Healey’s office said. With more traffic on the bridge, these improvements will have a greater impact, it said.
The second reason is security. The bridges are in a similarly degraded state, but as the Sagamore Bridge sees more traffic, safety improvements will have a greater impact.
In fact, according to Healey’s office, 56% of all accidents occur on the Sagamore Bridge due to the layout of the bridge and the volume of traffic.
The third reason is economic impact. With direct access to Route 6 and increased traffic, the redevelopment of Sagamore will have a greater positive impact on the Cape’s economy.
State officials estimate that replacing the Sagamore Bridge will cost $2.15 billion globe reported. Construction would not start until 2028 and is expected to last until 2035.
Reactions to the new strategy
Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce executive director Paul Niedzwiecki said: globe He is concerned about the “mismatch” between the planning, permitting and funding of the two bridges.
“I understand the phased approach to funding and a more competitive bid means a more realistic bid. However, there is concern that no specific funding will be made available for the Bourne Bridge replacement,” he said.
In an interview with the globeHealey was reportedly unable to say when her office would seek funding for the Bourne Bridge.
“Last year we followed up on an application that was unsuccessful at submission. We didn’t want to repeat the same practice,” Healey told the newspaper. “It will be specific. It will be a significant step forward.”
Nevertheless, the Cape’s congressional delegation communicated that globe it supports the new approach.
“It’s a smart, pragmatic approach to getting the money,” US Rep. Bill Keating – a Bourne Democrat – told the newspaper. “The risk is not in taking action. As this is such a lengthy project, this should always be done in stages over a period of several years.”
US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, along with Keating, praised the approach in a joint statement to the US government globethat “Massachusetts now has a chance to begin replacing the bridges.”
Funding sources for Cape Cod Bridge replacement
This month, Healey’s office is sending out applications for the Discretionary grants for multimodal projects, which includes funds for both highway and general infrastructure projects. There will be an application for that in the fall Bridge Investment Program.
“We believe this is a competitive bid that puts us in the best possible position to move forward with this project, which is critical to the economy of the Cape and our entire state,” Healey said in her statement Monday.
Healey is requesting $372 million from the first grant program and $1.08 billion from the second globe reported. Both programs were part of President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.
In June, Healey committed $262 million to replace the bridges their government’s Capital Investment Plan 2024-2028. Last month, it pledged to commit $700 million to the project over the long term, doubling the amount previously pledged by the state.
In December 2022, the Biden government Massachusetts awarded a $1.6 million planning grant for the bridges.
He then budgeted a $350 million down payment for the bridge replacement in March 2023 and agreed to the transfer of ownership from the Army Corps of Engineers to the Commonwealth. This suggestion made it through the US Senate in July.
How the Cape Cod Bridges got to this point
The Cape Cod Bridges were completed in 1935 should last 50 years but have been continually repaired over the last few decades to keep them in place. The bridge construction has resulted in it being the only road on and off the Cape for more than 35 million vehicles a year miles of traffic jams.
In the last five years, a study on the Cape Cod Canal and one more the bridges themselves recognized the need to have them rebuilt. In one of the studies, the bridges were even described as “functionally obsolete”.
In April 2020 the Army Corps of Engineers announced the decision to replace the bridges. But since then, leaders have faced setback after setback when it came to allocating federal funding for their successor.
Officials say if the bridges are not replaced, they may have to permanently close one lane in each direction on the Bourne Bridge by 2032 and on the Sagamore Bridge by 2036 globe reported. In the years that followed, they were forced to limit the size of trucks allowed on the bridge.
Officials continue to urge the bridges to be replaced
On Monday, Healey called replacing the Cape Cod bridges one of her administration’s “top priorities.”
In addition to doubling state funding for the project, the governor emphasized that she had hired a director for federal funds and infrastructure and worked to include funds for the bridge replacement in Biden’s budget.
Warren has also taken steps to secure funding to replace the bridges. In July, she asked Cape Cod leaders to write to her and explain how the bridges’ decay had impacted their communities and how their replacement would improve the Cape.
Responses from leaders, due Aug. 2, would help the senator lobby for funding for the bridge replacement, she said. So far, she has not published any updates on this call.
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