MassDOT to Study Commuter Rail Extension to Buzzards Bay

HYANNIS – The Massachusetts Department of Transportation will soon begin a study to look at the viability of bringing commuter rail service to Bourne.

Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator Tom Cahir said local officials have been making a case for years to bring commuter rail service to Cape Cod as part of the South Coast Rail project, and that the state recognizes there is potential.

“The track and infrastructure is already in place from Middleboro to Buzzards Bay and it is welded rail,” Cahir said. “There’s no significant capital expenditure that would be necessary.”

Cahir said he has spoken with officials with MassDOT and that they know there is regional interest in bringing the service to the town.

The CCRTA has already brought the CapeFlyer train service to Cape Cod on summer weekends.

“It has proven to be enormously successful both in ridership and in getting people out of their cars,” Cahir said.

Cahir said he has had discussions with 10th Bristol State Representative William Straus (D-Mattapoisett), who is the House chairman of Transportation and has worked for years to bring commuter rail service to New Bedford and Fall River.

“He certainly is cognizant that Buzzards Bay makes sense,” Cahir said.

An extension of the commuter rail to Buzzards Bay would provide another way to get people up to Boston efficiently and out of cars.

“The one big thing that I think makes the most difference is the fact that the Town of Bourne, the chamber and others in Bourne are making a concerted effort to enhance Buzzards Bay,” Cahir said.

The CCRTA received a grant last year to improve transit opportunities in Buzzards Bay.

The $354,000 grant, which comes from MassDOT’s Discretionary Funds, supports the local and regional transit oriented development initiative focused in the area.

Utilizing an existing capacity, the CCRTA is proposing to double frequencies along a stretch of Main Street in Buzzards Bay.

That includes extending the fixed route Sandwich Line from the Sagamore Park and Ride in Bourne to Buzzards Bay and staggering service with the fixed route Bourne Run.

The proposed enhanced service has been developed with the Town of Bourne, Cape Cod Commission, Mass Maritime Academy, Falmouth State Rep. David Vieira and the business community.

The CCRTA has held two meetings with stakeholders to talk about specific issues like Scenic Park traffic and parking challenges, along with commuter rail services.

Meetings will be held monthly for the rest of the year.

Cahir said extending commuter rail to Buzzards Bay would be useful for Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The school enrolls 1,700 cadets.

“The stop that would be needed for commuter rail is right at the doorstep for Mass Maritime Academy,” Cahir said.

About 30 to 40 percent of those cadets come from the Metropolitan Boston area.

Commuter rail service could also be useful if new passenger bridges are constructed over the Cape Cod Canal.

“It’s not inconceivable that we could create some parking in the Mid Cape and have trains to Buzzards Bay so people could meet the commuter rail and get to Boston,” Cahir said.

He said local officials are trying to be proactive in thinking about transportation issues.

“We are constantly providing input to the state folks who we know and deal with on a weekly basis,” Cahir said.

The study will include a public input component which is expected to begin in the coming months.

“I think public input is important,” Cahir said. “There is a strong signal being sent by the citizens in the Upper Cape that this train option would be a good one.”

Bourne voted to join the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in 2015.

“I think that really reinforced the strong support that exists up there,” Cahir said.

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