Construction of the controversial new train station platform for the CapeFLYER summer weekend train just off Sandwich Road in Bourne has been put off until next year. Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority administrator Thomas S. Cahir made the announcement during the Wednesday, February 11, Bourne Board of Selectmen’s meeting.
Mr. Cahir said that, given the transportation problems the state is facing in the wake of record snowfall over the past couple of weeks, there simply is not enough time to secure the necessary bids for the contract and have the platform constructed in time for Memorial Day weekend, when the CapeFLYER goes into operation.
“I really don’t think it’s feasible, so I’m going to suggest tonight that we don’t do the platform this year,” he said.
Last fall, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced plans to build a new $2.3 million, 4,000-square-foot platform for the CapeFLYER summer weekend train that runs between Boston and Hyannis. The proposed platform would be on US Army Corps of Engineers property and on a state rail right-of-way on the Cape side of the Cape Cod Canal, directly beneath the Bourne Bridge. In addition, new siding tracks would be installed along with an improved signaling system. The new side tracking would allow trains to queue up and more of them to cross the vertical lift railroad bridge in Buzzards Bay during a single lowering.
The platform has been approved by the Bourne Conservation Commission, with an order of conditions issued by the commission, making the project subject to town wetlands bylaws.
Mr. Cahir added that, in consultation with state transportation officials, he mentioned there are still concerns in town about the platform. He said it is his hope that by stepping back and delaying construction another year, it will allow for further dialogue between his agency, the state and the town on the project.
“I do hope that we can continue the discussion and see if we can do something that really helps a lot of people in Bourne,” he said.
Selectman Linda M. Zuern asked if the only piece of the project to be put on hold is construction of the platform and whether the state would move forward with installation of the new siding tracks and signal house improvements. Mr. Cahir said he could not say for certain because it is a state project. However, MassDOT follows the lead of the Cape transit authority decisions relative to the CapeFLYER because of the success of the train.
“So if we’re not going to be doing the platform, perhaps they won’t be doing the other projects,” he said.
That response led to a contentious exchange between Mr. Cahir and selectman Stephen F. Mealy. Mr. Mealy said the town had been led to believe, by Mr. Cahir, that the side tracking and signal improvements would be of benefit to residents who live near the train tracks. It would mean less time with trains idling and waiting to cross the bridge, cutting down on noise and odor pollution. Mr. Mealy asked if postponement of the platform necessitated postponement of the track and signal improvements as well.
“Is there some reason why the improvements wouldn’t go forward?” he asked.
Mr. Cahir said he did not think so, but repeated that since he works for the Cape transit authority and not the state, he could not answer for certain. Mr. Mealy asked, since Mr. Cahir apparently had enough influence to call off construction of the platform, did he have enough influence to see that the other improvements go forward?
Mr. Cahir said it was his belief that the state would go forward with the improvements but Mr. Mealy would have to ask the state for a definite answer. He countered that Mr. Cahir should ask the state on Bourne’s behalf.
Mr. Cahir admitted he mistakenly believed the town’s concerns were more about the side tracks and signal houses than the platform. Both Mr. Mealy and Ms. Zuern said the opposite was the case. Mr. Mealy also took issue with Mr. Cahir’s suggestion that a station stop under the Bourne Bridge on the south side of the canal would not seriously impact weekend traffic on Sandwich Road and at the Bourne Rotary. Part of the rationale for the platform has been alleviating traffic congestion by lessening the number of vehicles on the bridge. Mr. Mealy said “the traffic is there,” whether it is on the bridge or Sandwich Road.
“If you drop them off on Sandwich Road, it’s going to be there. If you have them get in a bus to get across the bridge, it’s there,” he said.
Mr. Mealy also questioned whether other trains, such as the Cape Cod Central Railroad’s dinner train, could also use the platform. He said it was his understanding that anyone with the legal authority to use the tracks could use the platform when it was not being used by the CapeFLYER. Mr. Cahir again suggested that Mr. Mealy would have to get an answer from the state, which seemed to further annoy the already agitated selectman.
“You came in with the platform. This is the CapeFLYER platform. My question is: can anyone else use it if they’re using the right-of-way rails? And you don’t know the answer to that,” Mr. Mealy said.
Mr. Cahir continued to hold to his position that construction and operation of the platform were under the auspices of the state.
“Okay,” Mr. Mealy said, resignedly.