The project to replace two aging Cape Cod bridges has lost out on no fewer than three federal grants to provide some part of the multibillion-dollar price tag. But state transportation officials still hope to secure funding by September 2025 for what’s anticipated to be a $4 billion project, with construction to follow “a little more than a year later,” a project manager with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said at an online public forum Wednesday evening.
Once construction begins, the entire project to replace the Bourne and Sagamore bridges would likely take six to seven years, officials said.
“Funding is a challenge right now for the project, as we don’t have full funding identified for the program,” said Bryan Cordeiro, Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s project manager for the bridges project. “We do have some funds identified through various state or federal sources, but the majority of the funding still has not been identified.”
The new Bourne Bridge will be east of the existing one, and the new Sagamore Bridge would be west of the current one. The new bridges will not overlap with the footprints of the existing bridges, officials said.
Massachusetts officials have struggled to obtain funding for the project that would replace the nearly 90-year-old bridges with new spans across the Cape Cod Canal that are designed with wider travel lanes, shoulders, broader entrance and exit lanes, and barriers separating the direction of travel.
President Biden earlier this month included $350 million to replace the Bourne and Sagamore bridges, toward what the administration said was a total commitment of $600 million in his $6.8 trillion budget. But given Republican control of the House, Biden’s budget is considered dead on arrival so it remains to be seen if his proposal amounts to much for the project.
Massachusetts was already awarded a $1.6 million planning grant for the project.
Hoping to shore up the difference, the US Army Corps of Engineers, which owns and maintains the bridges, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation applied for three grants under President Biden’s “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” but was beaten out by large bridge projects in Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, and California.
“Funding from all three grant opportunities will not be awarded to the Cape Cod Bridges Program for the fiscal year 2022 round of funding,” Cordeiro said.
Transportation officials, he said, are preparing to submit the next round of grant applications.
“We expect to submit a stronger application this time around,” Cordeiro said.
The two bridges link the Cape to mainland Massachusetts on a critical route for residents and tourists. But the bridges were intended to stand for just 50 years, and the Army Corps of Engineers recommended in 2020 that both be replaced, cautioning that it would cost more and cause more disruption to rehabilitate them.
The Bourne is rated as structurally deficient, and the Sagamore as fair, although there are no imminent safety concerns with either. The Corps has called both bridges “functionally obsolete.”
Funding could hopefully be secured by September 2025, Cordeiro said.
“Actual construction wouldn’t happen for some time after that,” Cordeiro said. “I believe we’re saying that it would take a little more than a year to get to actual construction happening.
“But right now, the schedule we have shows us getting to the construction phase, or being able to obligate federal funds, in September 2025,” Cordeiro said.
Transportation officials on Wednesday also announced the development of a public advisory group, representing local interests. The goals, outcomes, roles, and responsibilities of that group have been finalized and “invitations have been sent to Mass Dot anticipated advisory group members,” Cordeiro said.
“We want to begin as soon as possible,” Cordeiro said. “In the spring of this year.”
Tonya Alanez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.