Flyover isn’t perfect, but fans abound

Businesses applaud easing of congestion on roads near Sagamore Bridge

By Robert Preer
Globe Correspondent / August 10, 2011

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SAGAMORE - Business at Johnson Electric Supply on State Road used to grind to a halt every summer weekend.

On Friday afternoons, traffic backed up from the Sagamore Bridge rotary - about a mile away - to the business’s driveway. The jam left Johnson’s delivery trucks with nowhere to go, and contractors wary of gridlock stayed away.

But five years ago, the state replaced the notorious rotary with a $60 million “flyover,’’ sending Route 3 traffic directly onto the bridge over the Cape Cod Canal.

Today, the backups that were the stuff of traffic-reporting legend are largely gone on local roads that once led to the rotary. That includes State Road and Route 6, or the Scenic Highway, as it is called on the north side of the canal.

“It has been excellent for us,’’ Bob Johnson, owner of the company, said of the flyover. “We go to Provincetown every day. We go from Sagamore to Buzzards Bay. Before, you couldn’t do it on a weekend.’’

When the flyover was proposed by Governor Mitt Romney’s administration in 2003, there was plenty of pessimism. Some business owners in Sagamore, a village in the town of Bourne, feared the new configuration would hurt their sales by diverting potential customers away from their establishments.

As it turns out, they were mostly wrong. While a handful of businesses may have been disadvantaged by the road layout, many others report the flyover has given them a boost.

In 2005, when construction was underway and the area around the bridge resembled a desert, McDonald’s representatives questioned whether their restaurant next to the rotary would be able to stay. Today, McDonald’s is planning a major expansion at the site.

“Our customers comment that it is much easier to access McDonald’s since construction of the flyover,’’ said Art Rico, Boston region operations manager for the fast-food chain. “It has improved egress from and entrance onto the highway for everyone driving in the area, and business has improved since the flyover was finished.’’

Marie Oliva, president of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, said: “The long and short of it is that it has been a resounding success. The queues of traffic going over the bridge are shorter now, and on some roads there are virtually no queues.’’

While the road configuration is dramatically different now, the businesses that operated there in the past are in the same locations. They include Shell and Mobil gas stations, the Ye Olde Spirit Shoppe liquor store, and a Dunkin’ Donuts shop, in addition to McDonald’s and Friendly’s restaurants.

A Cape Cod Canal Chamber visitors center opened next to the McDonald’s, and a commuter parking lot was relocated.

The Sorenti family owns the Mobil and Shell stations and the liquor store property. The state took by eminent domain several homes owned by the family on the Scenic Highway near the old rotary.

The family is selling the Mobil station and liquor store properties to McDonald’s for the restaurant expansion.

Michael Sorenti, who manages the Shell station, declined to comment on how the flyover has affected business. His family strongly opposed the project.

Carol Gallo, office manager for Gallo Construction Co., located near the first highway exit on the other side of the bridge, said the flyover has helped business dramatically.

“To be able to go to Sagamore Beach and not have to deal with the rotary is huge,’’ said Gallo, whose company delivers landscaping materials throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. “We can go to Wareham and get back in no time at all. We never used to be able to do that.’’

Still, the flyover has not been a panacea.

On the mainland, traffic approaching the bridge on Route 3 continues to back up at the start of the weekend.

And on the other side, traffic leaving Cape Cod on Route 6 (the Mid-Cape Highway) as the weekend is ending can still stall near the span, which has just two lanes in each direction.

“The naturally limiting factor is the width of those travel lanes on the bridge,’’ said Wendy Northcross, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive.

Traffic merging onto the highway from Route 6A near the bridge also delays drivers leaving the Cape, she said.

But it’s clear the flyover has improved traffic flow through Sagamore, a state Department of Transportation spokesman said.

“It allows for easier access for emergency vehicles, as well as our own vehicles,’’ said Michael Verseckes.

Gallo said less traffic isn’t the only benefit: She has felt safer since the rotary was scrapped.

“Some people didn’t understand the rotary,’’ she said. “I saw drivers try to go around it the wrong way.’’

Robert Preer can be reached at