After years of talk, it would appear that we are moving toward consensus that the two canal area bridges are going to be replaced. After almost 100 years of service, the bridges require almost a billion-dollar makeover to remain marginally serviceable for just an additional decade of useful life. That same billion dollars can be spent to build new spans that will last generations. The economics of which solution is better is plainly obvious.
As the conversation moves from if the bridges should be replaced to a more detailed design debate, the options on the table must include a broader vision for transportation on Cape Cod away from the canal area. Major transportation projects always come with additional projects which mitigate the impacts of the main project. In this case, the region needs to define what a modern transportation system for Cape Cod would look like. Progress on the bridges should be paired with other improvements and investments that reduce reliance on cars. Let’s think about expanded public transit options for getting on and off the Cape, as well as getting around on this side of the canal, increasing electric charging stations, and incentives for concentrated town center development that protects open space, promotes walkability and more livable villages.
We are on the cusp of a once in a century opportunity to shape the transportation future of Cape Cod. The debate should be how to provide modern infrastructure while implementing good land use practices, reducing the carbon footprint of getting around, and creating more transit options. There will never be a better time for major improvements. Let’s think big.