The traffic backups on the Cape might start early this year.
Beginning Monday, the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the two crossings over the Cape Cod Canal, will close a lane in each direction on the Sagamore Bridge for maintenance. The work will run around the clock for nearly two months, and is scheduled to end right before Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of tourist season and its miles-long backups on Route 3.
The Army Corps says the 83-year-old Sagamore must be partially closed for work such as bridge joint replacements, repair of steel and concrete supports, and pavement patching.
“This bridge work is critical to maintaining the structural integrity of the bridges, which are a vital component to the transportation system of Cape Cod, the Islands, and Southeastern Massachusetts,” the Corps said in a news release.
Timothy Dugan, a Corps spokesman, said he was confident the work would be completed in time for Memorial Day, but he suggested that drivers stagger their travel times this spring to arrive on the Cape outside peak periods.
On the other side of summer, similar work is planned for the Bourne Bridge, beginning after Labor Day and running until late November.
Wendy Northcross, chief executive of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said the work is “inevitable,” but expects it will cause problems on big travel weekends in May such as Mother’s Day, and for daily commuters from the Cape to Boston.
“We knew this work was coming a couple years ago. But it doesn’t soften the pain we’re about to feel for a couple months,” Northcross said.
She is especially concerned about the lane closures on the Bourne Bridge in September, because tourism tends to stay strong through that month. Meanwhile, the CapeFlyer weekend train service usually ends on Labor Day weekend.
Northcross said the increasingly frequent maintenance on the aging structures and resulting traffic jams highlight a “need for a solution” to congestion issues. She favors replacing both bridges and changing intersections on either end to improve traffic flow.
The Army Corps is conducting an ongoing study of whether to renovate or replace the bridges.
Although Massachusetts officials once toyed with the idea of adding another bridge, the Army Corps study is not considering the prospect of a third bridge, according to minutes of a public meeting from February.Adam Vaccaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.