The CCETP is not an evacuation plan, but rather is a traffic management plan that can be used under any circumstance when public safety officials deem it necessary to implement Task 1 to facilitate the flow of traffic off of the Cape. The plan may be implemented if there is an evacuation for parts of the Cape or when a large number of people elect to leave the Cape even if there is no evacuation request or order. In a hurricane it is unlikely that there would ever be a need to evacuate the entire Cape. Rather, people in vulnerable low lying areas may be asked to evacuate to safer, higher ground areas on the Cape, including to friends’ or families’ homes, or nearby public shelters.
This plan was initiated following Hurricane Edouard, which approached Cape Cod on Labor Day in 1996. Within hours of the Governor’s Declaration of a State of Emergency, a 6-8 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 and on-ramps. 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 objective of the Plan.
The Plan, which is revisited and exercised annually, is comprised of three stages. Prior to any traffic management operations, a significant amount of time is spent in the Preparation Stage to ensure public safety partners are prepared for a potential full activation of this plan. Once preparations are complete, the Response Stage begins. This Stage is made of two tasks. Task I involves traffic operations to help streamline traffic off of Cape Cod. This task 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 Route 6 and Route 28 where entering/merging will not affect the primary traffic flow. These new traffic patterns will be accomplished by traffic coordination of Massachusetts State Police at crucial travel points, a series of prepositioned informational signs set up by MassDOT, and continual Media announcements. In the event of an accident or breakdown, arrangements have been made with several local tow companies, who will be utilized to remove disabled vehicles from the roadways. The rapid removal of these vehicles will minimize potential backups. If towed, these vehicles will be moved only to pre-designated locations in the immediate area to maximize the tow companies’ availability to keep the roads clear.
Task II of the Response Stage is activated when the Army Corps of Engineers, MassDOT, MA State Police, and MEMA determine that winds have reached or are about to reach dangerous levels, precipitating the closure of all traffic on the Bridges. Past versions of the CCETP tied closure of the bridges to specific wind-speed thresholds. In the most recent Plan, the decision will depend on a variety of additional factors such as forecast, time of day, traffic and road conditions. Once the bridges are closed, any motorists still on the road will then have the option of seeking their own shelter (including at public shelters or at families’ or friends’ homes) or going to the designated Shelter of Last Resort at Joint Base Cape Cod (formerly known as the Massachusetts Military Reservation at Camp Edwards) until the storm passes. Once the storm passes and the bridges can be reopened to traffic, the Re-entry Stage begins, whereby traffic operations are returned to normal in a controlled manner.
The Cape Cod Emergency Traffic Plan has been developed by the cooperative efforts of federal, state and local partners. Participants in this process have included representatives of MEMA, MA State Police, MA National Guard, MassDOT, American Red Cross, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, MA Department of Public Health, Cape Cod Medical Reserve Corps, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), National Weather Service, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department, Barnstable County REPC, Barnstable County IMT, WQRC-Radio and numerous Public Safety Personnel from the potentially impacted communities from Bourne to Provincetown and the Islands.