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Old 01-18-2016, 08:06 PM   #1
cybah
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US Route 6 on Cape Cod

Okay.. I just got back from spending a quiet weekend on Provincetown on the cape. Since it's the off season and there's no ferry.. and I do not own a car, I rode the Plymouth and Brockton Bus all the way to PTown.

This was my first *ever* ride on US Route 6 from the Sagamore to Ptown. Yes amazingly enough, after 15 years of living in MA, I've never actually rode the entire length of US Route 6. I've been to Hyannis from Boston, and to Orleans from Ptown (via a friend who needed to go to Staples).. but never the entire length.

Anyways.. I was looking online and I couldn't find an answer for this question. Does anyone know why US Route 6 isn't a full divided highway between Sagamore and PTown? It just seems logical with the amount of traffic during the summer it would be two lanes in each direction from end to end.

It's a divided highway from north of Wellfleet to PTown, and again from the Sagamore to Exit 9 in Dennis. It seems like they wanted to, but just never bothered.

I know that part of US 6 goes thru town centers (i.e Wellfleet, Orleans, etc) so widening that part to a full separated highway is nearly impossible.. but my question is more about the 13 mile section on US 6 called "Suicide Alley" from Exit 9 in Dennis to the Orleans Rotary. The road isn't in a densely populated area, and could handle being widened. Even some of the overpasses look like they have enough clearance for a divided highway.

It also would eliminate the head on crashes, which gives that section of US 6 it's name. (which in itself, is ironic, because US 6 in Connecticut between Willimantic and the 395 interchange in Killingly is also called "Suicide Six")

Anyone have any idea? (outside of NIMBYism or wetlands issues).

(mod's feel free to tell me to move this elsewhere, but I thought this location was appropriate since it's not really in Boston, so it wouldn't fall under the Boston categories)

Last edited by cybah; 01-18-2016 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 01-18-2016, 08:17 PM   #2
The EGE
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

They planned to in the 50s; I can't remember why it wasn't done. There's a good writeup that I can't find.

Several interchanges were actually constructed: https://www.google.com/maps/@42.0355.../data=!3m1!1e3
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Old 01-18-2016, 08:38 PM   #3
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

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Originally Posted by The EGE View Post
They planned to in the 50s; I can't remember why it wasn't done. There's a good writeup that I can't find.

Several interchanges were actually constructed: https://www.google.com/maps/@42.0355.../data=!3m1!1e3
If you do find it let me know.

yeah that's the confusing part.. it just seemed like they were planning to do so. Built some interchanges in some places. Made it 2-4 lanes in sections (i.e. PTown <--> Truro), and a few other highway-like features.

But in others.. they have at-grade intersections, rotaries, and stop lights in others (I think the stop lights were added later to slow people down thru town centers)

The Ptown <--> Truro divided highway section just doesn't make sense.. a huge highway for a small number of travelers. Yeah there's Race Point and Herring Cove Beaches at the end of US 6, but realistically, you'd think by the time US 6 got to Ptown, most of the traffic would have gone elsewhere (i.e. Wellfleet, Orleans, etc) long before it ever made it to Ptown and such a wide highway wouldn't have been needed

(and yes I know that your options for parallel roads once you get past Truro is pretty much 6A/Bradford Road, and Commercial Street itself. But to have such a massive wide highway there, rather than a standard 2-4 lane "boulevard style" roadway would have been sufficient)
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:13 PM   #4
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

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Originally Posted by cybah View Post
Does anyone know why US Route 6 isn't a full divided highway between Sagamore and PTown? It just seems logical with the amount of traffic during the summer it would be two lanes in each direction from end to end.
I'd assumed it was that traffic is naturally one-ended: The mainland is huge and P'town is small, and much of the mainland's demand has crossed a bridge and turned "left" or "right" and naturally diminished as it goes.

Overimproving 6 at the east end would only cause you to drive that much faster as you went westward until you slammed into the rear end of the queue for the bridges. Until there's more bridges (and the will to add lanes on the west Cape) I don't see the need for much upgrading on the east Cape.

If we got a third crossing, say with 4 or 5 lanes (a reversable one), then it'd make sense to add 1 lane to each of the Cape arterials to, say, Falmouth, Hyannis, and Ptown. I think that all-or-nothing kind of logic is what then gets the NIMBYs riled and has the Cape frozen where it is.
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:45 PM   #5
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

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I'd assumed it was that traffic is naturally one-ended: The mainland is huge and P'town is small, and much of the mainland's demand has crossed a bridge and turned "left" or "right" and naturally diminished as it goes.

Overimproving 6 at the east end would only cause you to drive that much faster as you went westward until you slammed into the rear end of the queue for the bridges. Until there's more bridges (and the will to add lanes on the west Cape) I don't see the need for much upgrading on the east Cape.

If we got a third crossing, say with 4 or 5 lanes (a reversable one), then it'd make sense to add 1 lane to each of the Cape arterials to, say, Falmouth, Hyannis, and Ptown. I think that all-or-nothing kind of logic is what then gets the NIMBYs riled and has the Cape frozen where it is.
I think my main question was about the 13 mile section called Suicide Alley between Exit 9 in Dennis and the Orleans rotary, and not so much widening it from that point in at the Orleans rotary to meet up with the current divided highway beyond Truro toward PTown. (via Eastham, Wellfleet, & Truro).

Only because, yes I agree, the traffic 'fans' out from the Sagamore, so by the time it gets to Ptown, its's minimal at best. (Which leads to my second question about why US 6 is essentially a four lane highway from Truro to Herring Cove in Ptown.)

It just seems like that 13 mile section should be two lanes from the its current lane restriction in Dennis to the Orleans rotary, not only for traffic but for safety.
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Old 01-18-2016, 10:12 PM   #6
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

Part of the reason was to help keep a lid on development. If the highway was double-barreled from Exit 9 to Orleans it would be hard to keep lots of more development out on the mid-to lower-Cape. The development would further deplete the limited aquifer out there and have environmental consequences. At one point there was a compromise plan to add a guardrail in the median instead of the floppy bollards, but I am not sure if that was ever built.
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Old 01-18-2016, 10:15 PM   #7
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

Per the invaluable (and charmingly out of date) bostonroads.com:

Quote:
In 1969, the MassDPW began design and environmental studies on upgrading the remaining "super 2" section from EXIT 9 east to the Orleans rotary. These studies were abandoned in 1974 because of environmental and land use concerns. The widening project's potential effect on local drinking water supplies was of particular concern.
So yeah, it was just about exactly what you thought. Groundwater out there is particularly fragile and scarce. Environmental concerns like you said plus development concerns like masswich said.

Click through for the whole history. Last proposed design to widen 9-to-13 is of the 1994 vintage. I should say that Suicide Alley has really been a misnomer for the last 25 years, since they installed the center berm and reflectors.
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Old 01-19-2016, 08:57 AM   #8
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

Widening doesn't make a highway safer, it just brings more cars. Any widening by MassDOT would require a "complete streets" redesign. Worse is that the towns have little say in any of this -- it's all at the state level and the state doesn't really give a hoot about the Cape.

There were interchanges planned for a lot of the crossings (including Conwell St in Ptown) but they were abandoned due to cost. Route 6 was built prior to the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore and the current rather strict environmental regulations.

Provincetown now owns Route 6 through town and has been talking about reducing it to one lane in each direction and repurposing some of that land for a separated bikeway and remote parking lots...
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Old 01-19-2016, 01:13 PM   #9
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

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Originally Posted by cybah View Post
I think my main question was about the 13 mile section called Suicide Alley between Exit 9 in Dennis and the Orleans rotary, and not so much widening it from that point in at the Orleans rotary to meet up with the current divided highway beyond Truro toward PTown. (via Eastham, Wellfleet, & Truro).

Only because, yes I agree, the traffic 'fans' out from the Sagamore, so by the time it gets to Ptown, its's minimal at best. (Which leads to my second question about why US 6 is essentially a four lane highway from Truro to Herring Cove in Ptown.)

It just seems like that 13 mile section should be two lanes from the its current lane restriction in Dennis to the Orleans rotary, not only for traffic but for safety.
They've wanted to widen it into a regular jersey-barriered 4-lane highway for decades, but it keeps getting stuffed by local opposition. State's come back and proposed just a 6.5 mile rebuild to Route 137 in Harwich to take care of the Chatham-bound traffic then leave the rest as a Super-2...and that gets stuffed too.


The single biggest problem US 6 has is substandard design. There's no right or left shoulders anywhere east of the bridge, the lanes are narrower than current Interstate regs, and the ramps are incredibly tight with no accel/decel room. And that is why you get colossal backups on a random Wednesday in March at 10:00am: one single accident hoses the entire thing west of the truck turnouts before Exit 5. And the locals have resisted safety improvements there because they think having a 1 ft. shoulder that dumps into a gravel ditch somehow discourages traffic. Ugh.


What the state needs to do is a full-on rebuild of everything to Exit 5 at modern Interstate geometry: no capacity increases, just get it up-to-code. That's the biggest takeaway from the Route 128 rebuild and a few other modernization projects. Full-width shoulders and ample accel/decel lanes at the ramps (even when the ramps themselves are still constrained by crummy 1950's geometry) makes all the difference in the world at the road's ability to respond and self-correct to stressors. Be they accidents, construction work zones, weather, or general flow recovery coming off a nasty clog.

So for 6 that means:
  • Eat the ugly center crabgrass median for a jersey barrier where the median is narrowest between the bridge and Exit 2. Do full-width left and right shoulders, and regulation travel lane width. All the space is there without needing to widen the roadway's footprint.
  • Exit 2 to 5 where the median spreads out just narrow it without eliminating entirely. Re-landscape the remainder to act as a proper safety median. Those craggy new-growth trees currently dividing the highway aren't a "feature", no matter how much the NIMBY's try to rebrand them as an essential aesthetic. They're deferred maintenance overgrowth that MassHighway has had to start trimming back because of too many poor-sightline accidents around curves and zero-warning deer strikes. There should be shrubs, tall grass, mound or depression there (i.e. safety management and soil management), not frickin' tall maple trees 6 un-guardrailed feet from a driver's side window.
  • Rebuild the exit ramps. Instead of those hairpin turnpike half-cloverleafs with zero merging room Exits 2, 3, and 4 should get redone as simple narrow-profile diamonds with traffic lights or stop signs at the bottom. Saves on land acquisition by keeping it within the highway property lines, and actually pulls the ramps further away from abutting property packed closer to the highway. Straight geometry, requiring little EIS'ing other than embankment/culvert work immediately adjacent to the highway. Also saves on any/all bridge construction because you're outright deleting the cloverleaf exit lanes carried by the bridges and converting that vacated space for the shoulder widening. Honestly, look at the turn angles from Route 130 (Exit 2) onto those ramps; it would be as much an improvement for the local roads as it would for 6.
  • Exit 5 may need a more substantial reconfig because of the WTF? rotary on one side and the mis-alignment of local streets. No suggestions, because I can't fathom what logic went behind the previous rebuild that configured it this way. Exit 5 is a high-accident site, so skew the funding for a permanent fix a little more to here.


Exit 5 to 9 the highway was a later build not as flagrantly dangerous as bridge to Exit 5. Not up-to-code, but at least there's some semblance of right shoulder and ramp geometry. You can probably stop there until a later phase because this segment isn't so poor at self-correction that it locks end-to-end at the slightest hint of trouble like bridge-to-Exit 5 always locks at slightest hint of trouble.


Not expensive since the crabgrass median was pre-built for future widening and no bridge touches are needed if the cloverleafs are changed to diamonds. Only EIS'ing required is with the ramp rebuilds, but there shouldn't be any blockers if the profile stays narrow. And ramp reconfig are the only injection points where community input is needed and all kinds of NIMBY fuckery will interfere (even when the end result is better for abutters). So you can also step out the work contracts so the median/geometry fixes on the mainline are semi-decoupled from the ramp rebuilds.






Why they won't do this probably boils down to which Cape Legislators have MassDOT's balls in a vice grip. They've been so loathe for so long to touch 6 because of the interference that gets run over MassHighway's head that it's become self-reinforcing habit to stay hands-off. It doesn't need to be this way when most of this is basic safety and state-of-repair work any other MassHighway district would be able to do without requiring community input. And I find it hard to believe that the same Legislators who were cockblocking past attempts dating back 25 years are still in office today, so that fear from above may be misplaced today.
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Old 01-19-2016, 01:53 PM   #10
ErnieAdams
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
Re-landscape the remainder to act as a proper safety median. Those craggy new-growth trees currently dividing the highway aren't a "feature", no matter how much the NIMBY's try to rebrand them as an essential aesthetic. They're deferred maintenance overgrowth that MassHighway has had to start trimming back because of too many poor-sightline accidents around curves and zero-warning deer strikes.
When MassDOT did some of this trimming work overzealously without installing guardrails, there was a fatal accident within a month: http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/...NEWS/141119438. (CCT article provided for more fulsome background on the players involved. MassDOT wouldn't confirm to the Times that the exact section of road was impacted by their clearcut, but this article does confirm it.) I'm not going to argue that guardrails and proper landscaping wouldn't be safer, or that a shabby strip of scrub pine in a highway median is somehow essential to the Cape Cod experience. I'm regretting sticking my head in the lion's mouth even as I'm typing this! But absent the money or political will to do anything else, the trees absolutely were/are a feature.
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Old 01-19-2016, 04:26 PM   #11
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

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Originally Posted by ErnieAdams View Post
When MassDOT did some of this trimming work overzealously without installing guardrails, there was a fatal accident within a month: http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/...NEWS/141119438. (CCT article provided for more fulsome background on the players involved. MassDOT wouldn't confirm to the Times that the exact section of road was impacted by their clearcut, but this article does confirm it.) I'm not going to argue that guardrails and proper landscaping wouldn't be safer, or that a shabby strip of scrub pine in a highway median is somehow essential to the Cape Cod experience. I'm regretting sticking my head in the lion's mouth even as I'm typing this! But absent the money or political will to do anything else, the trees absolutely were/are a feature.

Oh, I get it. It's all about political will and fear of poking the dynamite monkey. It'll boil down to how many deaths are too many, and how high-profile a multiple-fatality accident or chain reaction it'll take to put safety up front as the overriding crisis for the Cape region's transportation.

What I fear is that we won't have a choice. There will be a multiple- or mass-fatality accident coming one of these days that's front-page news, forces a fierce outcry, and gets pols sweating their own hides about whether it's time to fast-track the job because continued deference to the NIMBY's has simply taken too many lives.

The only question is how soon, how bad, and how tight a budget era it will coincide with when that fix-as-penance becomes non-optional.
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Old 01-19-2016, 04:40 PM   #12
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Re: US Route 6 on Cape Cod

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Oh, I get it. It's all about political will and fear of poking the dynamite monkey. It'll boil down to how many deaths are too many, and how high-profile a multiple-fatality accident or chain reaction it'll take to put safety up front as the overriding crisis for the Cape region's transportation.

What I fear is that we won't have a choice. There will be a multiple- or mass-fatality accident coming one of these days that's front-page news, forces a fierce outcry, and gets pols sweating their own hides about whether it's time to fast-track the job because continued deference to the NIMBY's has simply taken too many lives.

The only question is how soon, how bad, and how tight a budget era it will coincide with when that fix-as-penance becomes non-optional.
The place where I most fear the high-profile, multiple-fatality, chain-reaction accident is right up there at the crest of the Sagamore Bridge. 40 feet wide, 40 mph speed limit, and 4 highway traffic lanes, with a pedestrian sidewalk to boot. God only knows what happens next. Boy, this thread sure is a pick me up!
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