A long-awaited plan to tear down and replace a pair of 85-year-old bridges that serve as the only “lifeline” to Cape Cod came one step closer to fruition on Tuesday, but state and federal officials said they still need to find a way to pay for the $1.5 billion project.
“We look forward to a day when two new bridges will be in place over the canal, built to modern-day standards and in place to help people safely get to and from the Cape for many decades,” Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said during a virtual conference with state and federal leaders.
Pollack on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. William Conde — a deal years in the making that will transfer control of the newly constructed Bourne and Sagamore bridges to the state.
The Corps will retain ownership and management of the bridges for the duration of the construction and demolition project. The federal government plans to pick up the tab, which the Corps previously estimated could range between $1.45 billion and $1.6 billion.
It’s “a plan that makes sense from all perspectives,” Pollack said, as it will take assets off the hands of the Army Corps and ensure the state doesn’t get saddled with structurally deficient bridges in need of “hundreds of millions” of repairs.
“These are more than bridges, these are lifelines,” Bourne resident and U.S. Rep. William Keating said, noting the bridges support the Cape’s $1 billion tourist economy and serve as its sole evacuation route for the Cape’s 215,000 residents.
The new bridges will feature wider lanes — something Gov. Charlie Baker admits has been a “huge issue for years” for travelers, and said there will also be space for pedestrians and cyclists
“The path that we’ve developed is a terrific bridge — to use a pun — to the future,” Baker said, ensuring the current bridges will be maintained while the new bridges are under construction.
Tuesday’s deal and the Army Corps divestment of the bridges is the first step in a long process to replacing the bridge. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey said “the big question” yet to be answered is how the project will be funded.
Markey, Keating and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who all attended Tuesday’s event — all pointed to a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill approved last week by the House that Markey admitted is “still stymied” in the Senate.
Keating said the bill includes amendments that would allow for use of gas tax funds and Markey said it would funnel $5.5 billion toward surface transportation projects in Massachusetts.
But “a project without funding is a hallucination,” Markey admitted.