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Monumental Technology–

Monumental Technology–

Linking Provincetown and The Pilgrim Monument with the Bradford Access Project

By Luke Carothers

Located on the tip of Cape Cod, it is no wonder that Provincetown is steeped in early American history.  Provincetown Harbor is where the Mayflower dropped anchor and signed the Mayflower Compact, agreeing to build a self-governing community on the ground that later became known as Provincetown.

In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for Pilgrim Monument at the top of High Pole Hill and 3 years later, President William Howard Taft dedicated the finished moment: a 252-foot granite tower.  Also in 1910, the first museum buildings were opened nearby, giving birth to the Provincetown Museum.

Today, Provincetown has grown and developed a robust downtown commercial center near the monument.  In recent years, it has become clear that there was a need for greater access between Provincetown’s commercial center, the museum, and the monument.  An early study indicated that building a set of stairs up the steep hill would not only be costly, but it would also negatively impact the environment—requiring over 160 steps, multiple landings, and switchback turns.  They also looked into other, alternative access methods such as a “walkway” and ski-lift elevator.

As such, engineers for the Bradford Access Project had to think a little out of the ordinary, and eventually settled on constructing an inclined elevator to link the top of High Poll Hill and Bradford Street.  The plan is for a single-tram system, which differentiates it from the similar funicular.  This is unique because there are only about 30 inclined elevators in the entire United States, and most of those that have already been built are for residential use.

Being so unique, the Bradford Access Project has its share of difficulties.  For example, due to its geographical location on Cape Cod, the site is a prime location for hurricanes.  In fact, the monument has withstood the force of a few of New England’s most powerful hurricanes over the last century.  Additionally, the lower levels of the project are located in the coastal flood plain.  This means that engineers not only have to account for the force of the wind, but also the potential for a storm surge.  Furthermore, engineers had to grapple with the geotechnical complexities of the Cape.  Geologically, the area is very sandy, as it was formed from the deposition of sand and glacial silt.  In order to maintain slope stability and integrity, the engineers employed the use of deep “helical pier” foundations.

These foundations were custom designed for the project, as well as the tram, which was designed by Outdoor Engineering.  The inclined elevator is designed to carry 18 passengers at a time.  The tram will run at approximately 200-feet per minute, which means the elevator ride will be about two minutes traveling either way.

When completed, this project will provide a much-needed link between key areas of the city.  On top of making the historical value of the site more accessible to the larger population, this project also provides a commercial boost for the downtown Provincetown area.

Engineer of Record: Coastal Engineering Company, Inc.

Architect: Brown, Lindquist, Fenuccio and Rayber Architects

MEP Consultant: CSI Engineering

Landscape Architect: Hawk Design

Contractor: RB Our Company

Construction Management: Jay Cashman Construction

Inclined Elevator: Outdoor Engineering

Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.