Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Corps looking at repairing or replacing the bridges?
The existing bridges were constructed 83+ years ago and require increasingly more frequent maintenance, which is costly and causes significant impact to the traveling public crossing the Cape Cod Canal. The Corps of Engineers, New England District is conducting a multiyear Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Study of the Bourne and Sagamore highway bridges to determine whether major rehabilitation or replacement of both bridges is the most fiscally and environmentally responsible decision for the next 50+ years of service.

What is a Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Report (MRER)?
The Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Study results in a Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Report (MRER), which is the decision document based on the analysis of the risk and reliability of the structures as well as the economic impacts/benefits of a number of major rehabilitation and bridge replacement alternatives versus continuing to repair the bridges as needed. The MRER will not result in final bridge design, initiate construction, nor guarantee funding.

What does the MRER consist of?
The Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Report is comprised of four elements: 1) structural engineering analysis of the bridges; 2) cost estimates for rehabilitation and/or replacement alternatives; 3) economic costs and benefits of the alternatives; and 4) environmental considerations.

Are you coordinating your plans with the Cape Cod public?
The Corps study is looking at replacement, major rehabilitation or continuing to repair the bridges as needed. To complete the NEPA and environmental portion of the study we are coordinating with state and federal agencies and holding public information meetings to allow the public in and around Cape Cod an opportunity to provide their thoughts and concerns about the bridge study, about potential alternatives and about environmental concerns and issues. Outreach and education, like this website, are integral parts of the Corps’ study and decision making process.

Will you hold public meetings or hearings?
The Corps held five initial public information meetings in early December 2018 around Cape Cod and the Islands to present an overview of the MRER for the Cape Cod Canal highway bridges spanning the mainland and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The Corps public information meetings were held at the following dates and locations:
– Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 in the Bourne High School auditorium, 75 Waterhouse Road in Bourne, Mass.
– Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 in the Plymouth South High School, Performing Arts Center, 490 Long Pond Road in Plymouth, Mass.
– Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 in the Nantucket High School auditorium, 10 Surfside Road in Nantucket, Mass.
– Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 in the Martha’s Vineyard High School Performing Arts Center, 100 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
– Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018 in the Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center, 744 West Main Street in Hyannis, Mass.

Additional public information meetings are tentatively planned for the summer of 2019 when a draft MRER is scheduled to be completed and the public and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to comment on those draft documents.

Who will make the final decision on whether to replace the bridges or not?
That decision or final recommendation to rehab or replace the bridges will be made by the Corps of Engineers headquarters staff after a full review through the regional headquarters in New York, USACE agency technical experts, and an independent, outside peer review.

If you replace the bridges will the current bridges be part of the construction plan?
If the decision is made to replace the bridges, new bridges are expected to be built adjacent to the existing bridges to leverage current transportation infrastructure. Current bridges would remain operational during construction and would be removed once the new bridges were complete.

When will we know the Corps decision on the bridges?
The complexity of the environmental study required for evaluation of the alternatives and coordination with Government agencies, Federally recognized tribes and the public will factor into the MRER timeline for completion. We anticipate that we will complete the Draft MRER in the summer of 2019. We will have public meetings on those drafts to accept comments that will be used to complete the Final MRER. We anticipate the MRER will be completed in winter 2019/2020.

Is the Corps working with MassDOT on its plans for the Cape Cod Canal bridges?
Yes, the Corps and MassDOT signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on all issues related to the Cape Cod Canal bridges, their repairs and or replacement, and to make efforts to reduce the impact to the general public who visit Cape Cod. The agencies share results of their data collection and periodically meet to discuss their individual studies. The Corps manages the Canal bridges, while MassDOT manages the approaches to the Cape Cod Canal bridges and the surrounding transportation infrastructure.

What agencies are the Corps working with on this study and their plans for the future?
The Corps is cooperating and coordinating with Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, Massachusetts State Historic Preservation Office, Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Coast Guard, and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, among others.

When will the MRER be completed?
The complexity of the environmental study required for evaluation of the alternatives and coordination with Government agencies, Federally recognized tribes and the public will factor into the MRER timeline for completion. We anticipate that we will complete the draft MRER in the summer of 2019 and complete the Major Rehabilitation Evaluation Report in winter 2019/2020.

How many cars use the bridges each year?
Each year, more than 35 million vehicles cross the two bridges; that’s about 18 million for the Sagamore Bridge and 17 million for the Bourne Bridge.

Why can’t you convert the Railroad Bridge into a highway bridge?
There is still a need for rail service to and from Cape Cod so that is not something that the Corps is planning.

Are the bridges different sizes?
The Sagamore Bridge is 1,408 feet long. The Bourne Bridge is 2,384 feet long.

I heard the bridges are functionally obsolete. What does that mean?
Because the bridges were built 83 years ago, they were built to the standards necessary for the vehicles and traffic of that era. They are considered functionally obsolete because of narrow lane widths, narrow to non-existent shoulder widths, lack of a median, and inadequate pedestrian and bicycle access.

Are the bridges safe?
Yes. The Corps inspects and repairs the bridges as needed. The Corps inspects one bridge every year. Last year we inspected the Sagamore. This year we inspected the Bourne. The Cape Cod highway bridges are old, but they are still reliable. The Corps has continued to maintain them for the past 83 years and they continue to provide reliable transportation service to the motorists of Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts.

How many people visit Cape Cod Canal each year?
More than 3 million visitors annually enjoy the Canal and its adjacent lands for diverse outdoor activities, including interpretive programs run by Corps rangers, and the Canal Visitor Center. Service roads are popular for biking, hiking, roller blading and walking.

How many vessels use the Cape Cod Canal?
Approximately 15,000 vessels of all types use the Cape Cod Canal annually.

Where can I get more information about the Cape Cod Canal?
For details on the Cape Cod Canal visit the website at https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Cape-Cod-Canal/Navigation/. There is also a link on the site to recreation opportunities at the Canal.

Where can I send my comments and concerns about the Canal bridge MRER study and the Environmental Assessment?
Public comments and concerns about the Canal bridge MRER study and the Environmental Assessment can be posted on the website: www.CapeCodCanalBridgesStudy.com or mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Attn: Cape Cod Canal Bridges Study NEPA Coordinator, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742.