The sudden appearance of a new train platform beneath the Bourne Bridge has residents and town leaders lobbing criticism at state officials.
Construction of the platform, which has been on hold for several years, took place this week. The board of selectmen said the project took place without any forewarning.
The topic of the train platform project was raised during the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, May 14. During public comment, William A. Nelson Jr. of Farnum Road brought the project to the attention of the board.
Mr. Nelson questioned whether the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) had notified the town of its plan to build the platform, or if the agency had sought any input from the town prior to moving forward with construction.
Although he said that he understood the state’s position that it can do whatever it wishes on its right-of-way, he also said that some advance notice of the plan to build would have been appropriate.
“At least in terms of being a good neighbor, that they would inform us of what’s going on,” he said.
Peter J. Meier, chairman of the board, said the selectmen could not discuss the matter Tuesday night because it was raised during public comment and was not an agenda item.
During a telephone interview the following day, Mr. Meier concurred that some notice should have been given the town, or CCRTA administrator Thomas S. Cahir should have appeared before the selectmen to announce the start of construction. He said he was disappointed in the lack of transparency.
“We may not have the authority to say yes or no,” he said, “but you come into our town. Don’t disrespect us. Communication has to be foremost. People look to the leaders of the town for answers, even for things beyond our control.”
Contacted this week, Mr. Cahir countered that, over the past year, he has spoken about plans for building the platform with members of the board of selectmen. He added that Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino, who serves as chairman of the CCRTA’s board of directors, was also aware of the plans for the platform.
“I’ve spoken to several town leaders over the past year that this was happening,” Mr. Cahir said. “It didn’t seem to be an issue of concern.”
The train platform was first proposed in the fall of 2014. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced plans to build a new 4,000-square-foot platform to accommodate the CapeFLYER summer weekend train that runs round trips between Boston and Hyannis.
The proposed platform would be on Army Corps of Engineers property and a state-owned rail right-of-way on the Cape side of the Cape Cod Canal. The platform was approved by the Bourne Conservation Commission, with an order of conditions issued by the commission, making it subject to town wetlands bylaws.
Construction of the new platform was supposed to take place in early 2015. Mr. Cahir announced in February 2015 that the project was being put on hold, due to the substantial amount of snow that had already fallen that winter.
Mr. Cahir told the board of selectmen back then that there was not enough time to put the project out to bid and have the platform built in time for Memorial Day Weekend, when the CapeFLYER goes into operation. The project has lain dormant since then.
This week, Mr. Cahir said the platform was almost built last year, but it was delayed again because of other projects MassDOT was working on in the Boston area. He said that the benefits of the platform were so significant, it was decided to go forward with it this year.
Mr. Cahir said the purpose to the platform is to accommodate CapeFLYER passengers who do not want to de-train in Buzzards Bay and then have to navigate the traffic going over the Bourne Bridge. He said that 25 percent of the CapeFLYER’s passengers get off in Buzzards Bay, and 60 percent of them go over the bridge and head toward Falmouth or Woods Hole, or in the direction of the Mid-Cape Highway.
“The comment I get from people coming off the CapeFLYER all the time is, ‘This is great, but now I have to go into the bridge traffic to make my boat,’” he said.
Mr. Cahir said there is no cost to construction of the new platform. He said that it was built using debris from bridges that had been taken down around the state. In addition, it was built and installed by MBTA workers, he said.
In 2014, the platform project ran afoul of residents who live in the area of the platform’s proposed location, including Mr. Nelson and former selectman Donald E. (Jerry) Ellis. Both argued that the platform was the first step to high-speed commuter rail running alongside residents’ backyards.
Former selectman Stephen F. Mealy also questioned the logic to dropping passengers off on the Cape side of the canal. Mr. Mealy said those same passengers still need to either navigate the Bourne Bridge Rotary or contend with traffic on Sandwich Road headed to Route 6 or 6A.
Mr. Cahir continued to maintain that the platform will be beneficial in the long run.
“I would think that constituents of the town administrator and the board of selectmen would recognize the benefit,” he said, “and I think they will once we do it once or twice.”
This year, CapeFLYER begins its annual weekend schedule starting Friday, May 24. Train service will continue on the weekends through Labor Day—Monday, September 2.