There's One Way Out... Lord, I Just Can't Get Across That Bridge...
"I named my baby 'Sagamore' because I went into labor and then
spent 19 hours trying to get to Falmouth Hospital from East Sandwich."
Today, just like every day this past month or two, there will be interminable delays on the Sagamore Bridge as well as the surrounding side roads. Businesses will suffer, jobs will be lost, tempers will flare, asses will be kicked, and the delays will go on until the Last Days.
OK, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic... or maybe I'm not being dramatic enough. I had the GPS on as I came up bucolic Rte 130 in Sandwich last Sunday.
A veteran of the Cape, I was going up 130 to intersect 6A, so as to not get caught in all that Rte 6 bridge delay traffic getting off Cape Cod over the Sagamore Bridge. Funk that. I was combining local savvy with modern technology to come up quiet side streets, hook through the Christmas Tree Shoppe parking lot, and enter Rte 6 at the foot of the bridge. I'd be in Southern Plymouth in 10 minutes, tops.
The little GPS thingy was showing me heading up 130, and was instructing me to turn left onto 6A. My car came to a stop 1.8 miles from said intersection. Bumper-to-bumper traffic began to pile up in front and behind me. I took a side street, hoping to exit onto 6A from a different approach. I made it to 6A easily enough, but the traffic jam was not exclusive to Rte 130.
From there, I crawled to the Christmas Tree Shoppe. It took me about an hour, but I was at the CTS, maybe 50 yards directly under the bridge. Home sweet home, right? Wrong. It took me a half hour to cut through the CTS parking lot and over the Sagamore. Traffic loosened up considerably after that as I headed towards Boston, which has about 3.5 million people in her town and surrounding business districts.
"I showed up for work a half hour late and got fired" or
"I blew off my 98 year old Mom on Mother's Day when I was 7 miles from her house".Mine was just one of several thousand similar stories, some ending with "I showed up for work a half hour late and got fired" or "I blew off my 98 year old Mom on Mother's Day when I was 7 miles from her house" and perhaps even "I named my baby 'Sagamore' because I went into labor and then spent 19 hours trying to get to Falmouth Hospital from East Sandwich." Sammy Hagar changed his song to read, "It took me 16 hours to get to Buzzards Bay."
It's easy for me to joke, because the Colonel comes from old money and, aside from time lost, I just missed some of the basketball game. The people who own, say, Twin Acres Ice Cream or the Sagamore Inn were probably not too thrilled with the slowly moving roadblock that was in front of their businesses all of Friday and Sunday. I saw the CTS manager outside of his store, staring in disbelief as his parking lot became the Central Artery. He also had 75 anti-nuke protesters on his premises as well, holding up NO ESCAPE FROM THE CAPE signs and scowling at SUVs. Happy days all around.
Cape Cod is a lengthy peninsula (?) that is home to 200,000 souls in the winter. It jumps up to about 400,000 in the summer, but we're getting off easy even then. Stretch Cape Cod out all straight, place her along the coast, and she'd encompass both New York City and Philadelphia. We're not overpopulated, nor are we anywhere near that sort of inner city population density nightmare.
We do have a unique "problem," and I use those quote marks because a lot of towns would love to have our "problem." We own the best beaches in the state. I'm no spring chicken, and I can't recall a time when need or circumstance made me say something along the lines of "I need to go to Monson, Massachusetts." But people from There love to come Here, and the money they spend greases our local economy... "keep you people off the welfare all winter," as my man Quint said.
We also have a lot of elderly out here, a fact that seems to have been lost on whoever planned the times when lane restrictions would be eased. Folks in Buzzards Bay are calling last weekend's traffic "The Mother's Day Massacre." If they don't finish the bridge work before next weekend, we may also be looking at some Memorial Day Mayhem. When I start breaking out the wrestling pay-per-view titles to describe our traffic, things are fu*ked up, Holmes.
I don't intend to pick on the workers, or even the planners. While moving all construction to overnight wouldn't hurt, they are out there trying very hard. It isn't their fault. They weren't alive when the decision was made to serve Cape Cod with two bridges. I don't think they even had Route 3 in 1933, and I know for sure that they didn't have Route 25 connected to the Bourne Bridge. All things considered, they actually did a pretty good job of planning it out 75 years in advance. Anything above this is a positive insofar as bridge construction goes, IMHO.
8 total lanes serving 200,000 people isn't enough, and it goes haywire when the other 200,000 show up. The kicker is that the other 200,000 all show up at once- on Friday afternoons- and leave at once- on Sunday afternoon.
The backbone of this article is you and I wondering what would happen if a Katrina-style hurricane took direct aim at Cape Cod and we all had to leave at once. We're also directly downwind of a Fukushima-style nuclear reactor. We have very rational reasons to wonder what would happen if Cape Cod had to empty suddenly, and you're not entirely wrong if you envision a Road To Basra worst case scenario. If we can't empty Sandwich on a sunny Mother's Day, A) what would we do with a tsunami... and B) what do we do about fixing that situation?
The answer to A is "Die in large numbers," while the answer to B is "Something." As near as I can tell (and remember, I'm a schoolteacher/sportswriter), the answer to B seems to be a choice of:
- Build a third bridge. I'm not a big fan of expanding the current bridges, which were built in 1933 and tend to wobble when a big truck drives over them. A Friday-Sunday pontoon bridge is also an odd idea that would only serve to load up Sandwich Road in a different manner.
- Dig a tunnel from Plymouth to Sandwich or Cataumet to Onset. This would give the tourists the last laugh in the Cape Cod Tunnel joke.
- Revitalize Plymouth Harbor and Orleans by running a commuter boat between them.
- Run the commuter rail over through to Orleans or so.
- Invent that thing from Star Trek where you, your family, your car and your money dematerialize in Plymouth and reappear in Barnstable.
- Get used to the traffic. Remember, in New York, there's no place to park. In Los Angeles, there's nowhere to drive.
The last option sucks, and the one before it isn't possible yet. Let's go backwards from there, shall we?
We do have a railroad bridge, and I'm not sure how much work we'd have to do for a railroad that would be little-used 9 months of the year and 5 days of the week. There would almost certainly be signifcant logistical delays. We may end up with Train Gridlock, which would only be good in the sense that we may get to see John Henry fight Casey Jones in a Track Rage incident.
A boat trip is also a nice way to get to the Cape, and would give all those landlubbers a sense of the nautical as they approach Cape Cod. You could have one boat dump everyone on the Cape's north shore, have another one hit the south shore, and yet another one going to the islands. That would take a lot of people off the roads, unless Friday or Sunday night is stormy/windy. In that case, someone in Idaho could conceivably lose their job because of a gale in Nantucket Sound... imagine a boss in Idaho saying "What the potato is a Small Craft Advisory???"
Wood's Hole would be able to accomodate the ferries, and the islands exist by ferry already. As for the north shore, I'd drop anchor in Orleans, where a bend in Route 6 nears Rock Harbor. We'd have to bulldoze some residences and drain some salt marsh, but wait until you see my Eminent Domain land-grabbing and endangered species extinction-mauling when we get to the Third Bridge part before you complain. I like Orleans for a landing spot because it would take a good % of the tourists on Friday night and send them onto the Cape westbound, against prevailing traffic.
We're left to choose between a Tunnel and a Bridge, which sucks for me personally because I am both claustrophobic and afraid of heights.
After the Big Dig nightmare, I really can't see a tunnel. We sort of already have one, the Boat Tunnel that is the Cape Cod Canal. That leaves us with a third bridge, and the question of where to put it.
There are about 6 miles between the two bridges, and nowhere to go with a new bridge but between the two existing bridges. Here's an aerial of the general area:
Route 25 heading to the Bourne Bridge is on the left, while Route 3 aiming at Sagamore is on the right.
A third bridge would cross the Canal right where Bournedale Road and Herring Pond Road intersect. We'd have a massive project on our hands as we would have to branch access roads off of 3 and 25 to meet at the third bridge. It'd be Pretty Much All She Wrote for the former Carter Beal Conservation Area as we'd pave and blacktop it, extincting lots of local species. We'd have to take a sizable portion of Camp Edwards, which probably isn't going to happen (I wonder if the US government would fight us if we just took it, a la Fort Sumter?).
You'd have a forked tongue as the two highways empty a lane at the approach to the new bridge, about where Barlow's Clam Shack is, and another fork on the other side that empties onto either A) Route 6, between Exit 1 and 2 eastbound) and B) MacArthur Boulevard somewhere/somehow. Maybe the southern route could blast through the whole base and come out at 130 in Sandwich.
Perhaps people headng to the Southern Cape on Route 3 South could take the new bridge and sort of cut over that way, while people heading for Sandwich from 495 could choose between two routes. According to my sources, it would cost a "gazillion" dollars to bring this project to fruition, but my source is someone at the tavern, so you may not want to go to the bank on this information.
Anything would be better than the status quo, and it may take a make-work public works project that emulates 1933 to straighten out the mess we have in 2012. What I have listed here probably isn't feasible, but we at least have the issue on the table for the more public works-minded people to ponder.
Meanwhile, while you're hung up on the Sagamore today, be sure to stop at the brand-spankin' new McDonald's that opened where the rotary used to be. I'm actually a fan of the nearby Mister Chen's Kitchen, but we'll do a whole article on them soon enough.