The nascent plan to build new bridges over the Cape Cod Canal has generated mostly enthusiasm up and down the peninsula — except in the community that would be the site of much of the construction.
Few people would contest that the two bridges are in dire need of replacement. But residents and officials in Bourne, which straddles the canal, are chafing at having to bear the considerable brunt of all the detours, noise, and land takings, even while they recognize the need for the project.
“It is a different dynamic in Bourne because it’s the site of both bridges, where virtually everything is happening,” said US Representative William Keating, who lives in Bourne and has championed the replacement initiative in Congress. “There’s a reason for those concerns. Down the road there could be takings, and nobody knows.”
At 87 years old, the Bourne and Sagamore bridges are in increasing need of maintenance, and keeping them long-term would require major rehabilitation work that could close lanes or even shutter the full bridges for lengthy periods.
While there have been talks about replacing the bridges for ages, the effort took major steps forward in the last year or so. Last fall, the US Army Corps of Engineers formally recommended their replacement, and then this summer signed over project management to the state Department of Transportation.
The project is dependent on federal funding that has not yet been achieved, and no real design work has even begun. Construction wouldn’t begin before 2025 — and that’s the optimistic estimate.
State officials said it’s only natural for Bourne to have so many questions at such an early point in a process that is still in its first stages of review.
“This process will include a robust public involvement process where MassDOT will engage with area residents and the public at large,” said Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for the state transportation department.
Bourne select board chair Judith Froman said town officials support the replacement project, and have had preliminary meetings with the state to lodge their concerns. One of the biggest worries is that surrounding roads or the bridges themselves will be shut down for prolonged periods during construction.
“Bourne is on both sides of the canal. We have students and public safety officers on both sides of the canal,” she said. “So it’s not just like, ‘OK, I’m going to commute over in the morning and commute back later.’ It’s a matter of people in town and services in the town who go over those bridges so many times a day. How is that going to be managed?”
The Army Corps study recommending replacement suggested the two new bridges should be built immediately adjacent, so the old bridges can keep operating in the meantime. They also advised both new bridges be built on the inside of the current ones. This configuration, the Army Corps says, would “minimize land takings.” But at least two properties would likely be impacted: the Market Basket plaza in Sagamore and the Dunkin’ Donuts at the Bourne rotary.
Market Basket did not respond to a request for comment. William Roberts, the landlord of the Dunkin’ Donuts site, said no one has yet been in touch with him about the property. But he opposes the replacement project, and would prefer a rehabilitation of the current bridge.
“Of course I’m not amenable to it,” he said. “Why would I want them to take my property?”
The state said it has not yet determined which, if any, properties it would need to take. But other property owners, including residents nearby, are worried they may also be affected — if not by the bridge work itself, then by related work to move and improve the approach roads.
Jeffrey Bilezikian, who owns the Christmas Tree Shops property across Route 6 from Market Basket, said that even if his property isn’t touched, the large-scale construction may limit access. He supports the bridge replacement, but wants the state to be as forthright as possible.
“Everybody knows we need a new bridge. Everybody knows we need to fix it. I just would like to be able to minimize the challenges,” he said. “This is a very necessary change, and I just happen to be the one at the foot of it.”