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In 2024, President Trump's proposed budget includes $350 million as a "down payment" to replace two iconic bridges on Cape Cod. But this money is not guaranteed and could face resistance in Congress from Republicans.
Biden's plan is just the start of a long battle over government funding and the debt ceiling, but it will serve as an effective weapon in his reelection campaign in 2024.
President Biden recently provided $350 million - a so-called 'down payment' towards an overall commitment of $600 million - for the replacement of Bourne and Sagamore bridges on Cape Cod in his latest budget. Massachusetts politicians who have been seeking federal funding for this project for years were delighted by the news.
As previously reported on CAI, the bridges are an essential piece of infrastructure in New England. They carry 38 million car trips annually - roughly one-third of the region's total travel volume - and serve as a vital route for public transit users as well.
However, those who rely mainly on these iconic spans for transportation aren't particularly pleased about the prospect of replacing them with new ones. Residents living along the route of potential replacement bridges have been protesting these plans for months now, fearing they will force them out of their homes or take away access to their communities.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey have led the Massachusetts congressional delegation in sending a letter directly to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), asking for significant funds for the Cape Cod Bridges.
They have also met with representatives of both the Corps and MassDOT to discuss this matter, including during their most recent trip to Washington DC in February 2022. At that meeting, lawmakers urged the Corps to submit a more competitive application for federal funding in fiscal year 2023.
Another positive development for the bridges project is that a $1.6 million planning grant was awarded by the Federal Highway Administration last year to help plan for new bridge construction. While this amount may seem small, David Tupper, senior director of MassDOT's Statehouse Roads Project, believes it to be evidence that Washington supports this endeavor.
This marks the first time major funding for Bourne and Sagamore Bridges has been included in a federal budget proposal, rather than being an afterthought like in past attempts to secure federal assistance. Unfortunately, two requests for more than $1 billion in grant money to replace these bridges were turned down, leading to years of negotiation with the Corps to make their project a priority.
The Bourne and Sagamore Bridges are the only roads connecting 263,000 residents to the rest of California, as well as 5 million tourists who visit Cape Cod every year. As such, they play a vital role in the local economy, generating over $2.4 billion annually and supporting thousands of jobs.
However, these 88-year-old Great Depression-era bridges are in dire need of repair. According to federal ratings, the Bourne Bridge is in "structurally deficient" condition while the Sagamore Bridge remains in "fair" condition.
For years, state leaders have sought to finance the replacement of two bridges with a combination of federal and state funds. Unfortunately, their latest effort to secure federal money for this project hit a roadblock last January when an application for $1.882 billion in grant money was denied by U.S. Department of Transportation officials.
MassDOT officials remain determined to find funding for the outdated bridges. They're hopeful that President Donald Trump's Budget, released Thursday, will include adequate money for replacement of these critical stretches.
Biden is expected to sign the 184-page document into law this week, making the bridges' restoration one of its top priorities. The plan calls for a $350 million "down payment" on the project as well as an additional pledge of $600 million to finance construction costs and take ownership once completed.
But this task will be no small task, particularly with a divided Congress that's likely to reject any tax increases in Biden's budget. And while Biden includes the most significant federal earmark for Cape Cod's bridges in his proposal, passage still faces an uphill battle in an increasingly Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
Keating noted the major development in the budget: $350 million in federal funding to replace bridges, with most of it covered by matching funds from the state. Furthermore, she added, the state has substantial bonding authority to help finance this project if necessary and Gov. Maura Healey has expressed her strong support for it as well.
Though President Biden has included funding to replace two aging Cape Cod bridges in his budget, Congress may still approve the project. These vital links are essential for tourism and emergency evacuation during times of calamity.
The Bourne and Sagamore Bridges serve as the main access points for vehicles traveling to and from 15 towns along the Cape Cod Canal. Not only are they important to regional commerce, but they also act as essential evacuation routes in case of natural disasters.
These bridges have an estimated combined lifetime of 85 years and require frequent maintenance and repairs to remain functional as designed. They currently need major rehabilitation, which could cause long lane closures as well as full bridge closures as needed for three to seven years.
According to a draft evaluation report from the United States Army Corps of Engineers, replacing two spans with new ones is recommended. The existing bridges are in poor condition and cannot accommodate expected increases in traffic.
They could potentially fail to function as intended in the future, due to expected increases in unsustainable use over time, according to Steven Tupper, deputy director of the Cape Cod Commission. To keep these structures functioning optimally, significant maintenance and repair will be necessary over the coming years, according to Tupper.
This is an enormous milestone for the region, as the bridges serve as a vital link to the rest of the country and offer tourists transportation. Estimates suggest they will require more than $1 billion in rehabilitation to remain functional.
These rehabilitation projects will necessitate lengthy lane closures and full bridge closures, creating massive congestion for travelers. That is why it is so essential to replace the bridges as soon as possible, according to Tupper.
According to an Associated Press story from Wednesday, the President's Budget provides $600 million as a down payment for bridge replacement and includes a legal provision allowing USACE to transfer ownership of the two bridges to Massachusetts. This will give Massachusetts Department of Transportation responsibility for maintenance and operation of these iconic landmarks in the future.
President Biden's budget proposal includes a substantial federal investment to replace two aging bridges on Cape Cod with modern ones. The $350 million 'down payment' would be an essential first step toward completing this ambitious project.
The 88-year-old Bourne and Sagamore bridges span the Cape Cod Canal, connecting mainland Massachusetts to Cape Cod. While these iconic structures remain essential routes for tourists, farmers, emergency evacuations, they are aging and require frequent repairs.
State and federal legislators have been striving for years to bring this project into reality, yet funding has proven difficult to secure.
On Thursday, President Biden unveiled his budget and provided a significant boost to help make this project possible. An initial $350 million will go toward replacing Bourne and Sagamore bridges - part of an overall investment of $600 million in infrastructure improvements.
Money raised would go towards building new bridges with wider travel lanes, a breakdown lane and multi-use lanes for pedestrians and cyclists. These features, as well as other improvements, aim to improve traffic flow and reduce accidents.
But one major question remains: how will these bridges be configured? Currently, they have one travel lane in each direction and no turning lanes for exits flanking them. According to Steven Tupper, deputy director of Cape Cod Commission and transportation program director, this design feature could create problems.
Another possible solution has been to replace the arches with two parallel bridges, which would be more efficient than having to close down the bridge for construction, which could take three or more years.
Another option is a concrete box girder bridge. This design would utilize cables extending out from tall pylons to support the bridge deck, unlike traditional metalwork found on current bridges. While this alternative design may not be as cost-effective as some might prefer, there are potential benefits such as reduced maintenance requirements.
Local officials and federal legislators are pressing the Trump administration to fund a replacement of the aging Bourne and Sagamore bridges. In a letter sent to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Rickey James, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, legislators asked how USACE plans on covering costs associated with such an undertaking.