New Cape Cod Bridges

millerm277

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That's because the approaches and the connections to the road network are the state's responsibility, not USACE which only owns the canal and the bridges themselves. MassDOT released its own report on this, which I haven't read. https://www.mass.gov/lists/cape-cod-canal-study-documents

Skimming the executive summary, looks they're contemplating major redesigns of pretty much the whole set of roadways/intersections/interchanges surrounding the canal, potentially including completely nuking the Bourne Rotary for a real interchange, among other things.

Interesting stuff in there, and worth a read.
 

jklo

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I would like to see reversible dynamic toll (Bus/HOT) lanes on RT 3 with proceeds to pay for improved rail, and dynamic tolling on the bridge itself /themselves
The Cape faces a bleak future as it is. Something like that would be the nail in the coffin.

I personally wouldn't spend a dime on new bridges unless the Army really wants it.
 

Arlington

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The Cape faces a bleak future as it is. Something like that would be the nail in the coffin.
Why? Properly priced, multimodal mobility is generally good for both environment and economic vitality. What dimension of bleakness do you see looming?
 

jklo

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Why? Properly priced, multimodal mobility is generally good for both environment and economic vitality. What dimension of bleakness do you see looming?
Once the Boomers die off the population on the Cape is going to crater. With no more retirees and no jobs, it's not hard to see where things are going.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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No, this budgetary point is too knee-jerky, and smacks of the "force of belief" complex that you project onto other posters when you don't like their ideas. You would be asking anyone else who made statements like that to provide supporting evidence, with lists of comparable projects and their relative price tags. The fact that you think $1B sounds expensive and that a cost doubling is inevitable doesn't cut it. Every project is stupid expensive now and I simply don't think that you have the facts at hand to pronounce this one "too expensive" within 24 hours of learning about it. It's your prerogative to dislike the project and to think that the whole thing is bad money after worse, but you're not qualified to be the Canal bridge budget czar.

Granted that the surrounding road system is a mess. I've been on here before saying exactly that. The bridges are also 20 years older than most of those roads and 20 years more substandard. They get to go first.
"Sounds expensive" has nothing to do with it. Any sum applied to one cog in the system isn't going to have a payoff to the whole system if the whole rest of the system is left to rot and be just as giant as impediment as before. What they do and do not choose to touch on the knotted flow feeding the bridges from miles out makes all the difference in the world on what bang-for-buck you net from the showcase expenditure of building new bridges and approaches. Traffic isn't impaling itself at the bridges and creating an onsite jam; more often than not the plot was lost 10+ miles out and the problem already sauteeing in its own juices before the bridges made it worse. Sample a week's worth of "Traffic on the 3's" and see where 6 most often gives up the ghost on the inbound commute (usually Exit 5/MA 149, 10.5 miles out) and how late in the morning that problem malingers to see there's a whole lot more to this puzzle. That there is no apparent plan to treat the flow until after it's already thoroughly fucked means the value proposition of the new span package gets diminished a lot. We should care about that. That $1B isn't being given a fair chance to work if we aren't caring about the rest. So if a companion $200M project bundle to rebuild shoulders and interchanges to safe/modern standards is nowhere in sight...yes, there's legitimate concern that this is a target fixation. Maybe we need to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time instead of making an--in your words--"knee-jerk" conclusion that the bridges have irrevocable 'dibs' on first in line. No study or proposal whatsoever to upgrade 6 into less of a death trap is in any pipeline, and past attempts suggesting the need for it have been withdrawn over the shrieks of Cape NIMBY's who think that their shoulder-less killing field does an effective job thinning the herd of mainlanders. Maybe that should also call into question the scruples of the lane adds, which don't add up for identical-twin spans when the merges for each bridge on each side of each bridge have wildly different trajectories (Sagamore in particular seems to need it much less than Bourne if Exit 1C were consolidated entirely on the Connector side, eliminating the Cranberry Hwy. side).

So what exactly is the goal here when there's such attention on the spans but a giant "Whuh?" to the 10 miles of varicose veins providing most of the fuel for the congestion inferno? Are we solving a traffic problem at its source? Are we fixing safety? Are we replacing decayed infrastructure? Are we making a capacity grab? Is this the public works project that finally tips the dominoes to fix 6 & 28's horrible design flaws, to finally stop pussyfooting and getting 3 expanded to six lanes to Duxbury without brakedown-lane travel shennanigans, to give some merciful consideration to load-spreading like the Southside Connector between bridges or even completing US 44 in Middleboro so 495 & 3 are robustly spanned? It's clear as mud what the endgame is, because there doesn't seem to be much of one when the proposal is sampling a bunch of laudable goals but not really charging dead-on at any of them. Including pitching itself as an actionable springboard for mandatory 6/28 rebuilds.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Once the Boomers die off the population on the Cape is going to crater. With no more retirees and no jobs, it's not hard to see where things are going.
This is true. Demographic studies of the Cape's native population paint a very bearish picture of the economy because they proportionally trend so much older than any other area of the state (including places like the Berkshires). I mean, it's not like wolves are going to be roaming the streets when the mainlanders are away for the winter so the problem isn't nearly as acute as...say, White Mountains region of NH where that is almost literally is going to be true in a few years. But Cape is Massachusetts' biggest problem region by far for population aging out of the economy and not being backfilled by enough replacements. We don't think much of that happening in our backyard because Greater Boston is so supercharged with Millennials, but it's real. There's no white-collar jobs to speak of on Cape Cod, few life-savings' floating blue-collar jobs anymore, and the military presence that used to backstop it all is a tiny fraction of what it once was. Increasingly it's just the tourism service industry with its wild seasonal swings, and service wages that--whether good or less-than good--don't lend themselves well to long-term savings because of the nature of that work and its job security.

You also have problems once the aging native population cycles out of replacing them with new year-round natives instead of just weekenders because of the precarious drinking water situation out there. Overwhelming use of old-installation well water (even on newer houses built on-footprint of their predecessors) dependent on one major aquifer, and virtually no municipal water distribution. The wells are uniformly very old, and aging homeowners don't put in the money to shore up those installations. So for a Millennial looking to buy a year-round home they can live in, raise kids in, grow old in, for 30+ years the cost of upgrading decayed water supply is a major deterrant when mainland towns not too far away don't have that issue. And the Cape towns don't have any money in the municipal budgets to start running city lines to sidestep that issue like a lot of formerly well-dominated mainland towns (I can think of Swansea as a recent example) have done. It means shifting water levels since a lot of those ancient wells were dug are going to result in service interruptions, with the lack of maintenance attention making the per-home fixes more expensive because past homeowners were inattentive to maint/adjustments while the price was better. It means a single major drought decimating the aquifer is going to put thousands in crisis right away and end up ruining a tourism Summer one of these years...with longer-term climate change making the future murkier to predict. It means high loss rates of a precious natural resource. And it means new-home starts and rebuilds are going to get ungodly expensive if the state EPA has to step in and mandate well upgrades as a means of rolling back these decades of decay...and--oof!--that is going to be a hyper-local recession's worth of economic shock by its lonesome.

It's not bleak per se...certainly not for the state as a whole which can carry that region on the backs of its booming regions much better than NH can with its dying inland. But it is deeply problematic, as well as an entrenched pattern that's not going to reverse itself for a couple decades at minimum. I wouldn't say we need our own Marshall Plan for the Cape or anything like that, but it definitely needs special attention on all manners of sustainability given that sustainability (of population replacement rates, to start) is where the cracks are showing. Getting the transpo 'vision thing' sorted is a very big part of that, but it's not the only big challenge they have to face.
 

ErnieAdams

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"Sounds expensive" has nothing to do with it. Any sum applied to one cog in the system isn't going to have a payoff to the whole system if the whole rest of the system is left to rot and be just as giant as impediment as before.
^Thank you, this is more like it. Our difference in opinion, then, is that I don't think it's OK to throw out the bath water because the project doesn't manage to solve a comprehensive regional problem in a single swing. My view is that what it's attempting to solve is worth solving, and not worth waiting to solve. The bridges are unsafe to the point of terror-inducing, beyond obsolete and at the age where the maintenance costs are only going to increase. They are also the lifeline in a way that none of the approach roads are. Call it flashy if you want, but don't mistake that for unimportant. Nothing else is going to work if these bridges don't work. Fine, I'd love to see them walk and chew gum too, but please don't make us all use these shitty bridges forever until they figure out how to unwrap a stick of Big Red.

You also have problems once the aging native population cycles out of replacing them with new year-round natives instead of just weekenders because of the precarious drinking water situation out there.
Hot off the presses, if you want to talk about $1B - that's how much one of the 15 towns is expecting to pay for town-wide sewer to address this issue. And that's one of the few towns that does have some semblance of a year-round economy.
 

Equilibria

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"Sounds expensive" has nothing to do with it. Any sum applied to one cog in the system isn't going to have a payoff to the whole system if the whole rest of the system is left to rot and be just as giant as impediment as before....
It would be useful to remember at this point that (a) the point you first encounter a queue is not the point at which a problem occurs and (b) MassDOT has a parallel project to rebuild the three bridge approaches and interchanges they haven't already done.
 

millerm277

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Maybe that should also call into question the scruples of the lane adds, which don't add up for identical-twin spans when the merges for each bridge on each side of each bridge have wildly different trajectories (Sagamore in particular seems to need it much less than Bourne if Exit 1C were consolidated entirely on the Connector side, eliminating the Cranberry Hwy. side).
From the study ceo helpfully linked, Welcome to Case 3A (Case 3 only modifies the Bourne Rotary rather than a full interchange) These are the only two choices given if the bridges are going to be replaced. Study estimate for all projects shown save the bridges themselves (includes the highway approaches to the bridges) is $222m in 2017 dollars.

Case 3A.PNG


Exit 1C.PNG
 

Arlington

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Once the Boomers die off the population on the Cape is going to crater. With no more retirees and no jobs, it's not hard to see where things are going.
So the solution is do nothing?

I'd see HOT + Rail (Middleboro-Buzzards) as the solution for commutable affordability+ jobs access for the whole South Shore. That that also addresses the mainland-access side of the bridge is related but not entirely connected.

Part of the solution for economic growth and affordable housing in Boston is going to be commuting (daily <1hr) and supercommuting (1 ~ 2.5hrs for a "face day" in Boston, but mostly work from home in the outer hinterlands).

That , to me, ends up looking like East-West SPG-WOR-FRA-BOS, where WOR-FRA is for daily commuting and SPG-BOS is the once-per-week super commute. And then North-South, you'd get either South Coast or Cape Cod rail where "commuting" might stop at Taunton & Buzzards Bay, and Supercommuting goes beyond.

In such a world, are you really saying that non-investment and disinvestent are our best options for the Cape?
 

jklo

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In such a world, are you really saying that non-investment and disinvestent are our best options for the Cape?
Pretty much, unless someone had a realistic plan to bring a sustainable job market to the Cape.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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It would be useful to remember at this point that (a) the point you first encounter a queue is not the point at which a problem occurs and (b) MassDOT has a parallel project to rebuild the three bridge approaches and interchanges they haven't already done.
Any disablement anywhere on that 10.5 mile stretch of Route 6 locks it solid because of the lack of breakdown lanes, and deficient merges on any of the exits cause slowed traffic kinks and right/left lane weaving. Actual crash statistics show that virtually the entire roadway out to Exit 9 being a demolition derby, with 6 of the 8 top crash sites on the whole Cape and 25% of the crash tally from the Top 50 sites being on parts of 6 in Barnstable, Yarmouth, and Dennis well outside the bridge project area. The worst non-Route 6 location was the Otis rotary on 28 four miles south of the bridge rotary. Flip to the next 2 pages for property damage tallies and crash rates to see the problem with those very not-bridge-related 6/28 locations get reinforced as festering sores. Nope...the fact that you can't plant the flag on one solitary point of the ground and say "Here!...here is where it all turns to spit!" does not mean you don't know exactly where the problem is and what's causing it. Nor does it mean "OMG! The bridges are a death trap" is a zero-sum game.

Right? Not...a...zero-sum...game. The bridges are important. But the actual evidence shows the congestion problem starts on the malformed roadways leading up and comes to die at the foot of the bridges. Cape MPO just did a full study workup of that calling for exactly those purely operational shoulder and ramp improvements to 6, and it just disappeared into the ether in front of MassDOT's attention span. Doing nothing for these problems significantly lowers the value proposition of the new bridges and overtly harms their funding chances. That does not mean wait until the Sagamore and Bourne fall into the water because fuck everything and blah blah blah; that would be completely zero-sum. It means get it right on what this thing is supposed to do first, so we can get on with doing it. Willful obliviousness that everything south of Exit 1C is "thar be dragons" land for why the Sagamore is fucked is the most banal of zero-sum games. This proposal is staking itself to a mishmash of operational, safety, and capacity improvements in a pitch for work within a project area, when the arbiter of whether traffic will realistically flow better / get on-off Cape more safely / necessitate more capacity is borne elsewhere. Even when a proposal has to stick to a study area there's accepted acknowledgement of when external factors are stirring the drink. Where is that here???


Put those solves on the board too instead of treating it like it's in a so very zero-sum parallel universe or insisting that every piece has to single-file and feel lucky it got blessed with MassDOT's attention span at all. Give that $1B a fighting chance to amortize itself with lasting results instead of being a wad for a wad's sake. If the 6/28 packages have to be chunked out in phases to pay for, fine. But get it on a commitment firmer than "we'll pay attention if we feel like it" up-front, because I guarantee Cape and mainlander voters are going to be fully riled-up if the same old miles-in-the-making clusterfuck sacks the new spans with congestion no different from the old.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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So the solution is do nothing?

I'd see HOT [snip]. . .
I wish I had an electric shocker every time HOT's got cited as some deux ex machina congestion solution. No...just, no. Kill it with fire. Same goes for that managed lane nonsense on 3 as a realistic solve for replacing the should-be-illegal breakdown lane travel. If you're going to solve a problem, do it right...not with gimmicks. An HOT over the bridges would do nothing for that location. It would introduce yet another merge on the sides of the bridge where there's already a crowding problem with those and end up undoing a lot of the approach improvements. There also isn't an inbound/outbound schedule that you can set a clock to like a CBD's rush hour cycle. It's frequently crowded in both directions because of the fucked traffic patterns miles out, and Saturdays during peak season can run pretty close to par on departures/arrivals from folks shifting their beach weekend early or bouncing between Cape and mainland on day trips. Plotting utilization to a schedule is going to be fugly at best; reversible lanes with inexact decisions on when to reverse, unidirectionals meandering between over/under-capacity too easily. And it's space-intensive on a water crossing, which needs to stick to the basics to be buildable in budget.

4 lanes, AASHTO-standard geometry, and a bikeway sidewalk. That's it. Take enormous pains to get standards-compliant merging over with on the mainland even if that means nipping at property acquisition to ensure it gets done right. And for the love of god end this willful blindness to the deplorable configurations of 6 & 28 a full ten miles out and eat your peas on those modernizations so this project has a fighting chance to do its job.


As for commuter rail, we've already got good data on that. The only thing standing in its way is South Coast FAIL sucking all the oxygen out of the room. The studied proposal specs:
  • Full-schedule extension of Middleboro Line to Buzzards Bay, with intermediate stop at Wareham Crossing (495/195/28 interchanges + shopping center). The current Cape Flyer stop at Wareham Village wasn't considered in the last study because of concerns that the platform sits in an unmetered local parking lot that would be difficult to regulate...but attitudes may have changed now that the Flyer's been good for downtown.
  • Doable with existing equipment if all rush-hour Middleboro consists ran as 6-car all bi-levels instead of mixed consists.
  • 74 minute BB-Boston travel times using no intermediate stops between Middleboro and BB as a measuring stick...+3.5 min. for every intermediate added (so ~82 min. if you include Wareham Crossing and Wareham Village as probable intermediates).
  • No layover required at BB as shift-changing trains will deadhead back to Middleboro (which has expansion space if needed). Add'l cost for daily deadheading offset by not having any cost for staffing/equipping/powering a new layover. 1 pocket track west of the Academy Dr. in what was once the 'old' layover is sufficient for onsite storage.
  • Signalization from Middleboro to the Canal, lengthening of 1-2 existing passing tracks south of Braintree, 1-2 passing tracks south of Middleboro (mostly refashioned from existing ones).
  • Deduct from study cost estimates all Cape Flyer-related upgrades, which have already taken care of all necessary crossing upgrades, most necessary bridge upgrades, and nearly all necessary running-rail upgrades. Yes, it will cost less than the study because we already paid so much forward on the Flyer.
  • Construction of 800-ft. full-high platform at Buzzards Bay (tricky spacing allowances between Academy Dr. and bridge-tender shack, but doable). The study kvetched to excess about parking capacity, but let that be the locals' problem to figure out.
  • (if included as station stop) Reconstruction of Wareham Crossing wood full-high as 800-ft. permanent structure, + misc. station facilities.
  • (if included as station stop) Construction of Wareham Crossing at Main St. grade crossing behind shopping center. Public-private TOD considerations should be in the funding mix, as the study suggested.

Nothing too fancy or controversial. Though it does not cross the Canal it defrays lots of traffic swarming the area from Mattapoisett, Marion, Rochester, mainland Bourne, and the southern expanse of Plymouth which instantly helps the bridge situation.

From there you can look at super-extending a couple express trains to Hyannis in each commute direction. You are allowed to run 8 daily trains in unsignalized territory without triggering the PTC mandate. LIRR's Greenport Scoot does this into Penn Station every day. Allowances for the M/W/F trash train may require that total get cut down to 6 passenger trains (Cape dinner train only runs weekdays on days the trash train doesn't, so is a non-factor). So you could schedule 3 AM inbound and 3 PM outbound Hyannis trips daily making stops at Hyannis, Sandwich, West Barnstable, and Bourne/Sagamore (wherever the permanent stop that replaces temporary Flyer stop Aptucxet ends up getting sited), then skip-stopping on the mainland Buzzards Bay, Middleboro, Brockton, Quincy Center to make up time. The only infrastructure requirements would be closing out all Flyer-related upgrades to the Cape Main tracks for consistent 59 MPH speed and equipping Cape Cod Central's Hyannis Yard with layover equipment (you could even live with Sandwich & Barnstable as low platforms for now since they've got full ADA mini-highs). You can set the bar there and see how ridership performs before making any decisions about negotiating more bridge openings, signalizing some/all of the Cape, and so on. I think it's got a good shot of overperforming on ridership despite the extremely long travel time, but doing just the couple extened runs off an otherwise BB-focused full extension means you don't have to stick your neck out very far at all to capture some extra value.

If you've got those nuts-and-bolts in place, then Cape Cod Central is conveniently there to pitch in with the Falmouth Branch. They have a Budd RDC and the wherewithal to get more, and the Falmouth Branch is slated for thorough upgrades which should eventually ramp it up to an even 30 MPH passenger. Next big item on the wish list is land acquisition at Cape Jct. to carve out an east wye leg so Falmouth trains don't always have to cross the bridge to BB and the dinner train can make a complete Hyannis-North Falmouth circuit ($$$ in it for them, because the Falmouth Branch has some of the best scenery of any rail ride in New England and they're dying to tap more of that). Cut deals for use of the existing station buildings at Monument Beach and Catumet and erect inexpensive 1-door ADA ramps (more like what the Mattapan Line has for front-door access than a ful-blown T mini-high), then throw some skeletal platform access at the former Pocasset and North Falmouth station sites. Run a commuter dinky to transfer at BB a couple times per day (Cape Jct. is signalized by the bridge-tender so it would not waste any Hyannis slots in dark territory) for a smidge of Falmouth-side congestion relief at a homeless-man's cost threshold that CCCR can a quick buck on.


That's a lot of good spread around a very low barrier to entry. Too bad the SCR M'boro Alternative has pretty much shot this entire sane-n'-sensible package to hell.
 
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Charlie_mta

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12 ft. lanes on an expressway/highway is standard. I'm a civil engineer and have designed lots of roads, both local and highway. If you go narrower it becomes a safety issue at highway speeds.
 

Equilibria

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Any disablement anywhere on that 10.5 mile stretch of Route 6 locks it solid because of the lack of breakdown lanes, and deficient merges on any of the exits cause slowed traffic kinks and right/left lane weaving.
I see no argument here against replacing the bridges because they are old and structurally deficient, which is what is happening. Neither I nor anyone else have called this a zero-sum game (nor has anyone even suggested it). On the contrary, we're pointing out to you that MassDOT is actually planning work on the surrounding infrastructure, but you keep moving the goalposts further and further down the road (literally).

Actually, this is the polar opposite of a zero-sum game, since funding for the bridges is locked in through Federal legislation pushed by the MA congressional delegation and has not required a dime of MassDOT's budget or a moment of its attention. MassDOT is an observer and a beneficiary, which allows them to focus on nearby work.
 

DominusNovus

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Once the Boomers die off the population on the Cape is going to crater. With no more retirees and no jobs, it's not hard to see where things are going.
Not to sound callous (my in-laws are two of those boomers), but as the population ages out and declines, it seems to me that many of the roadblocks to development will decline proportionately. Fewer people objecting to improving transit access on the cape (including real commuter rail), fewer people objecting to necessary improvements (looking at rte 28 and 6 here), and lower population density overall, thus reducing the pressure on many of the other infrastructure concerns F-Line mentioned.
 

ulrichomega

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I see no argument here against replacing the bridges because they are old and structurally deficient, which is what is happening. Neither I nor anyone else have called this a zero-sum game (nor has anyone even suggested it). On the contrary, we're pointing out to you that MassDOT is actually planning work on the surrounding infrastructure, but you keep moving the goalposts further and further down the road (literally).

Actually, this is the polar opposite of a zero-sum game, since funding for the bridges is locked in through Federal legislation pushed by the MA congressional delegation and has not required a dime of MassDOT's budget or a moment of its attention. MassDOT is an observer and a beneficiary, which allows them to focus on nearby work.
The argument seems to be that replacing the bridges isn't fixing all of the problems with traffic, therefore we shouldn't touch the bridges. But the study seems to call for not-insubstantial changes to the surrounding roads that I haven't seen F-Line comment on yet.
 

ErnieAdams

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Just feeling like dropping this detail into the discussion: among the alternatives considered by ACE were tunneling, building a third bridge, or FILLING IN THE CANAL!! Now that's how you put the Engineers into Army Corps of Engineers. It's worth keeping in mind that these bridges are such albatrosses to ACE that they thought it might make sense to study a complete removal of the conditions that make the bridges necessary in the first place, navigable waterway be damned. Can you even imagine?
 

elemenoh

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Not to sound callous (my in-laws are two of those boomers), but as the population ages out and declines, it seems to me that many of the roadblocks to development will decline proportionately. Fewer people objecting to improving transit access on the cape (including real commuter rail), fewer people objecting to necessary improvements (looking at rte 28 and 6 here), and lower population density overall, thus reducing the pressure on many of the other infrastructure concerns F-Line mentioned.
That's it in a nutshell. Sometimes things don't change until the next generation gets to be in charge, and the boomers have pretty much overstayed their welcome. They'll support spending $1 BN on bridges for their cars but continue to protest peanuts for improved transit, bike lanes, sidewalks (yes, there are people on the Cape who protest sidewalks!), and building attainable housing for the local workforce.

Rebuilding the bridges makes sense if they're past their lifespan, but doing anything that adds more capacity is a fruitless endeavor. The local road networks just can't handle more cars.
 

Arlington

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The Cape Cod Canal was built in the same heady 1900~1920 era of both Peak Canal (NY Barge Canal (1905), Panama (1914)) and Peak Railroad (1914)--neither mode saw personal autos, freight trucking, airlines, or the interstates coming.

The canal is simply not necessary. Coal, Oil and passenger volumes would never justify digging it were it not already dug. If it is expensive to keep open and causes them to spend too much on a long, high underclearance bridge, it might make great sense to fill or narrow the canal.
 
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