Cape Cod’s infrastructure is antiquated and ineffectively serving our communities. We’ve failed to plan for future expansion and population growth, a situation especially concerning when our population quadruples during summer or is stressed during winter. It’s time to fix our aging roads, bridges, power grids, and transit options, and to break the Comcast monopoly on cable and broadband, which limits consumer options and puts a stranglehold on digital access.
Transit: We currently have two bridges that service roughly 50,000 cars a day during our peak months. Our two-lane highways are notoriously jammed throughout the summer, while even small construction or maintenance projects during the Cape’s off-season can generate frustratingly similar results for motorists. I propose a different solution, a restoration of our Cape flyer bridge and implementation of a state-of-the-art train, built to code and able to handle winter conditions. We could cut back on the albatross that is our highway system, cut emissions, create jobs, burn less fuel, and give our residents accessibility without the headaches.
The train would be fast and run all day, seven days a week, and priced for all riders, not just those with white-collar jobs. Electric power would provide faster service and produce less pollution along the route than diesel, and driving to a park-and-ride station and taking the train downtown would be cheaper and perhaps faster than the average trip on a congested highway. Building this system will require significant new capital expenditures, because no substantial improvement is cost-free, but expenditures can be controlled. Many existing commuter rail locomotives and coaches, for example, will need to be replaced whether or not we switch to EMUs. The conversation about replacing the aging transit system in this state is coming, and I believe it must come now and include Cape Cod.
Power lines: It’s time to bury our power lines. Year after year we push through the winter months hoping to avoid blizzards altogether, which is unrealistic for where we live. Storms bringing high winds or snow too often incapacitate our power lines and poles. Outages are frequent and can last for days, while winter road conditions prolong the process of repairing and restoring. Eversource is often required to outsource for additional assistance during blizzards or devastating storms to repair our lines. Moving those lines underground would circumvent the headaches and health risks posed to our communities, especially seniors without power in arctic conditions. This would also widen the roads.
6A is a notorious route for cyclists during the summer, creating hazards for cyclists and motorists alike. Removing the utility poles would allow us to segregate a path with the cyclists in mind. Burying power lines costs roughly $1 million per mile, but the geography or population density of the service area can halve this cost. I will push for an extensive and detailed engineering review of our layout to keep costs as low as possible and spread those costs out over a number of years if necessary. I will also work with Eversource and look into state and federal options to limit the expense burden on our citizens.
Broadband: The easy part of deploying broadband infrastructure is laying wires underground. The hard part, and the reason it often doesn’t happen, is that local governments and public utilities present unnecessarily expensive and difficult barriers to entry. Before building out new networks, Internet Service Providers must negotiate with local governments for access to publicly owned rights of way so they can place wires above and below both public and private property, and “pole attachment” contracts with public utilities, which allow them to rent space on utility poles, or in ducts and conduits. Local governments and their public utilities, however, charge providers far more than these things actually cost.
Cape Cod deserves better than being forced into the Comcast monopoly. OpenCape, a 501c3 nonprofit tech company located in Barnstable, is a great start in attempting to open up the broadband marketplace. They currently serve over 100 institutions across the Cape, but I believe we need to go further. Residents have limited options and pay higher prices for average quality service; if we want more competition, we need to make it easier to build. The key to promoting broadband competition, which has the potential to drive prices down, improve service, and force companies to continue innovating, is streamlining the process for those who want to build a network. Services often base their availability on population density, and the Cape is home to more than a quarter million year round residents and a million summertime residents. These numbers justify multiple service options, but the current climate here on Cape favors the monopoly holder over our communities. This cannot be allowed to continue.
The obvious stumbling block when it comes to infrastructure issues facing Cape Cod is cost, especially when it comes to undergrounding. We need a cable and broadband marketplace for our citizens, capable of providing lower cost options and better quality services. We need to address and alleviate our commuter headache by offering a straightforward transit option for residents and visitors. And we need to bury our power grid so we can protect vulnerable residents from storms capable of leaving them in the cold and dark for days or weeks at a time. I understand the challenges we face with each proposal, but I also acknowledge the challenges we face if we fail to make these priorities a reality.