MA Approves Dismantling of Notorious Sagamore Rotary

Wed December 31, 2003 - Northeast Edition

BOSTON (AP) The notorious Sagamore Rotary, site of nightmarish vacation traffic jams caused by thousands of vacationers flocking to and from Cape Cod, will soon be eliminated and replaced by a road designed to keep traffic flowing more smoothly and more quickly over the Sagamore Bridge.

State Environmental Affairs Secretary Ellen Roy Herzfelder on Dec. 16 approved the $35-million project, despite objections from environmentalists who claim the project could spark a development boom on the Cape that would threaten the water supply.

“To everyone who has had to endure that broken intersection, we are on our way to fixing it,” State Secretary of Transportation Daniel A. Grabauskas said. “It is a great milestone.”

The plan, which was part of Gov. Mitt Romney’s gubernatorial campaign, calls for replacing the rotary with an interchange that sends Route 3 traffic directly onto the bridge. Route 3 would narrow from two lanes to one to feed one lane of traffic across the bridge, while traffic from the Bourne Scenic Highway parallel to the Cape Cod Canal will take a new ramp onto the bridge’s other lane.

The scenic highway meanwhile will be rerouted under the new ramp, making it easier for residents to get around town.

To mitigate environmental concerns, Herzfelder ordered the state Highway Department to buy $500,000 worth of open space to protect a Cape aquifer.

The project, which would cut the time it takes to cross the bridge on a summer Saturday from 27 minutes to six minutes according to the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction, is expected to start in the spring and be completed by late 2006.

The state will have to take four houses and a business by eminent domain to complete the project.

Environmentalists and Cape residents have argued that reconfiguring the road will do nothing to alleviate traffic problems, because more people will travel to the Cape under the belief that the trip is easier.

“They say if you build it, they will come,” said Bennet Heart, an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, which opposed the project. “The only twist to this is, if you remove it, they will come.”

The rotary and the bridge were built in 1935 to handle 35,000 cars per day. They now handle at least double that on peak summer travel days.

Some residents also are concerned that new traffic patterns could present a safety hazard. The rotary slows drivers, and without it, some vehicles will approach the narrow four-lane bridge too fast, residents said.