The Bourne Bridge (foreground) and the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge (background) at sunrise. iStock photo

After previous efforts to secure federal funding for replacement of both Cape Cod bridges stumbled, Gov. Maura Healey and her deputies will shift to a phased approach that first targets money primarily for the Sagamore Bridge.

Healey’s office said the administration will submit applications in the coming weeks for a combined $1.45 billion in federal grants, most of which would go toward replacing the Sagamore Bridge but not the nearby Bourne Bridge.

It’s a shift from previous attempts to secure money for the project – whose anticipated price tag has soared from roughly $1.5 billion in 2019 to more than $4.5 billion today – that sought grants for both bridges at the same time.

In an interview with the Boston Globe, which first reported Monday on the change in approach, Healey said last year’s failed grant application under former Gov. Charlie Baker was “dead on arrival.”

“We didn’t want to repeat the same practice,” she told the Globe.

Healey’s office said the administration still intends to replace both bridges, but wants to start with the Sagamore because of its higher traffic volumes and its bigger role in the Cape’s economy. About 56 percent of crashes on the Cape bridges take place on the Sagamore, Healey’s office said.

The proposal would launch construction of a new Sagamore Bridge in 2028, with the replacement span featuring wider lanes, new auxiliary lanes and bicycle and pedestrian options completed by late 2035 or early 2036.

Depending on funding, construction on the Bourne Bridge would start in 2029.

A Healey spokesperson said the $1.45 billion in funding sought would be “primarily for construction of the Sagamore Bridge,” with an unspecified amount intended for work on the roadway approaches supporting both bridges.

“This first phase will enable us to get shovels in the ground quickly on the Sagamore Bridge, lay the groundwork for rebuilding the Bourne Bridge, and move forward on the permitting and design of both bridges,” Healey said in a statement. “We believe that this is a competitive application that will put us on the best footing to move forward on this project that is critical for the economy of the Cape and our entire state.”

The upcoming grant applications seek about $1.08 billion from the Bridge Investment Program, $222 million from the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (MEGA) program, and $150 million from the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Projects (INFRA) program, according to Healey’s office.

It’s not clear how the state will make up the rest of the funding needed for the project – which could total more than $3 billion for both bridges – even if those applications are successful.

Healey has said she wants to dedicate $700 million in state money, and the administration’s fiscal year 2024 to 2028 capital investment plan includes $262 million toward that goal. A key U.S. Senate committee also signaled support for President Joe Biden’s proposal to put $350 million for the project in the federal budget, though the Republican-controlled House might not support the measure.

“We will continue working closely with our Congressional Delegation and Biden Administration to compete and advocate for federal funds that become available in the future,” Healey spokesperson Karissa Hand said when asked about additional funding needs. “Governor Healey has committed $700 million in total from the state.”

Both spans have been operating since 1935, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – which owns the bridges – has long deemed them “functionally obsolete.”

Under a 2020 agreement, the Corps will retain ownership and management of the bridges during demolition and construction of replacements, then transfer ownership of the new bridges to Massachusetts.

At the time the deal was reached, the Baker administration publicly said the federal government planned to cover the project costs, though a Mass. Department of Transportation spokesperson clarified there was no formal obligation for Washington, D.C. to do so.

Congressman Bill Keating and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, part of the state’s all-Democrat delegation who served in the majority party in both chambers last year, praised Healey for the pivot and appeared to pin blame for previous unsuccessful grant applications on her Republican predecessor.

“After multiple failed bids by the Baker administration, Massachusetts now has a fighting chance to start replacing the bridges due [to] a competitive application that meets the eligibility standards for federal investment,” the trio said in a joint statement.

Healey Looks to Replace Just One Cape Bridge to Start

by State House News Service time to read: 3 min