New emergency traffic plan for Cape depends upon cooperation

Steve Desroches

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has unveiled a new emergency traffic plan as the state organization reviews procedures in the event of a major hurricane.

The Cape Cod Emergency Traffic Plan has been developed to deal with the high volume of traffic from the Cape in the event of a hurricane, particularly during the peak tourist season. Although developed for a hurricane scenario, this “All Hazards” Plan has been designed to be utilized in a number of emergency situations, said MEMA. 

Essentially, the plan eliminates off-Cape access to routes 6 and 28 at the base of both bridges, prohibits local traffic access to these main arteries through the rotaries and prohibits all cross-rotary traffic. These prohibited merges are offset by providing detours around the congestion areas to points on routes 6 and 28 where entering/merging will not affect the primary traffic flow. The Massachusetts State Police and the Massachusetts Highway Department would manage these new traffic patterns.

“Like any plan, the Cape Cod Emergency Traffic Plan will only work with the full cooperation of the public,” stated Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency director Don Boyce. “To ensure the continued safety of individuals and their families, it is imperative that citizens carefully follow the life-saving instructions of their local and state officials, in a timely, responsible manner.”

The state emergency agency stressed that this is not an evacuation plan. Most residents would be safe in their homes or at local designated mass care shelters, said MEMA. There would be no reason to evacuate the entire Cape in the event of a hurricane; however, the state anticipates that most tourists would attempt to leave the Cape & Islands if a serious hurricane is predicted, especially in the summer season.

The state began to review this plan following Hurricane Edouard, which approached the Cape on Labor Day 1996. Within hours of the governor’s declaration of a State of Emergency, a six- to eight-hour backup, stretching an estimated 40 miles occurred from the Sagamore Bridge to the Orleans Rotary along Route 6, due in large part to the challenges presented by the highway’s rotaries. The goal of the plan is to eliminate the causes of congestion in the areas of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges, as well as on routes 6 and 28, the main arteries leading to them.Free flowing off-Cape traffic is the primary concern of the plan.

MassHighway would activate message boards announcing a detour for traffic bound for the Bourne Bridge. This detour would send motorists through the Massachusetts Military Reservation to Route 28 to exit the Cape at the Bourne Bridge. 

The emergency traffic plan would go into Phase 2 when wind speeds reached 70 miles per hour and the Army Corps of Engineers closed the Bourne and Sagamore bridges. All motorists on the road will then have the option of seeking their own shelter, particularly in large local public mass care shelters or, as a last resort, being sheltered at retrofitted barracks on the Massachusetts Military Reservation until the storm passes.

For additional information about MEMA and Hurricane Preparedness,

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