January Infrastructure: Vineyard Wind, Cape Light Compact, sharks & the bridges

It was reported to the Infrastructure Committee at its January meeting that the comment period for the Vineyard Wind proposal may be extended due to the government shutdown. Vineyard Wind, which has proposed the largest wind farm in the U.S. off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, presented their plan to the Infrastructure Committee last spring. We had a consensus in favor of their plan, and recommended the proposal to the CCTC Board of Directors for consideration. The Cape Cod Tech Council has since written a letter in support of the project.

The Infrastructure Committee is also following progress as Provincetown, Hyannis and Falmouth work to improve their broadband capability. These are three communities with enough density for broadband to be an economic driver. Looking at communities where broadband is robust, economic development has followed. Our understanding is the projects can be completed within a matter of weeks once the approved funding is received.

Issues related to broadband have been a longstanding concern of the committee. This issue came to our attention when a resident of the town of Hyannis noted that the Growth Incentive Zone plans for Hyannis included no broadband.

Cape Light Compact updated the committee on their statewide energy efficiency plan, which they had submitted along with other program administrator serving the Mass Save program. There are important issues in this plan that they expect an answer on, including the ability of municipal administrators to offer enhancements that differ from the state programs. Cape Light Compact is the only program administrator that serves mutual customers, and the only program that proposed battery storage to serve as emergency response. The DPU is required to issue their order by January 31.

The Infrastructure Committee remains interested in supporting possible technology addressing the issue of sharks on Cape Cod. Part of our interest was prompted by reports that people on the beach were unable to get a signal to call for help. Committee representatives have had conversations with the National Seashore, which may be interested in exploring cell service. We might also be helpful in prevention/mitigation, and are looking into solutions for the area where the overwhelming number of sightings have been reported — from Provincetown to Monomoy Island. The Chamber of Commerce hosted a tourism forum recently, where the impact of shark sightings on the Cape’s economy was discussed.

We have also been following the replacement of our bridges. Three options for the bridges are to do nothing, repair the existing bridges, or build replacements — a decision that will be made by the Army Corps of Engineers. One of the things that needs to be addressed is the weight the bridges can carry. A bridge closure, or weight limits, would be economically disastrous.

There is a proposed completion date of 2025 for the replacement of the bridges. We are part of the Fix Coalition, with a representative attending meetings.

At this point it seems the focus is on replacing both bridges in the same locations, the biggest plan for which includes three lanes and a bike lane in each direction. It was noted that there was no discussion of innovative solutions. As these bridges will be used for at least 50 years, a committee member felt there should be some forward-thinking in design. This may be a good avenue for the Infrastructure Committee’s involvement, since there will still be traffic issues at either end, no matter how large the bridge is. There has been talk of fixing bike lanes, as well as rail service into Wareham. Infrastructure Committee members are interested in looking into what technology is being used in other regions to mitigate traffic.

The infrastructure committee meetings are open to members of the public, and the committee invites ideas on other topics.

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