In the Spring of 2017, the Cape Cod Commission completed an initial feasibility study to explore options for connecting the Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth with the Cape Cod Canal Path in Bourne and Sandwich. The study explored three options for connecting the paths within the publicly owned land that has historically been used as a rail corridor. These include "rail-to-trail (developing path and removing the tracks)" and two options for "rail-with-trail" (maintaining the rail tracks and locating path adjacent to rail). In citing the tremendous potential benefits that the project will bring to the region and the "overwhelming support for the project," the Commission recommended that the project move forward to the next phase of the planning and design process.
Highlights from the study, including potential benefits, are detailed below. The full report can be accessed here.
- Creating a more livable community
- Improved accessibility for non-drivers
- Reduced traffic congestion
- Air and noise pollution reductions
- Energy conservation
- Improved local property values
- Improved public health and fitness
- Increase the well-being of the Cape’s residents, making Cape Cod a more attractive place to live
- Make Cape Cod a more attractive place to visit, strengthening the tourism sector portion of the economy
The Cape Cod Commission collected bicycle and pedestrian data over the past several years for the Cape Cod Canal and Shining Sea Bikeway, counting the number of bicyclists, skaters, walkers, joggers, children in carriers, and wheelchairs to use each respective trail on a given day. For example, on June 30th, 2015, 840 pedestrians used the Shining Sea Bikeway while 626 pedestrians used the Cape Cod Canal from 7am to 7pm (Cape Cod Commission, 2015). This data sheds light on how popular the Bourne Rail Trail path could potentially be.
Currently Mass Coastal Railroad holds a lease with the state of Massachusetts to operate freight service over the Falmouth Secondary Line. This line is currently being used for a private waste hauling business that ships trash through Bourne on rail cars.
The study provided information on three options for completing the trail: rail-to-trail, rail-with-trail, and rail-with-trail with at-grade trail crossings.
Rail-to-trail is the least expensive option and involves the removal the existing rail line and construction of a trail within the railbed. This option is approximately $9.14 million.
Rail-with-Trail is likely the most expensive option and involves the construction of new bridges and embankments to create the trail. This option is approximately $25.5 million.
Rail-with-trail with at-grade trail crossings could eliminate the added costs of constructing new bridges by minimizing new bridges and bringing crosses to street grade This option is approximately $14.7 million.