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Keeping thousands of trucks off the Cape’s roads and bridges

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The Massachusetts Coastal RR (MCRR) is a freight railroad that operates just under 100 miles of railroad tracks in Southeastern Massachusetts. We also maintain and operate an additional 44 miles of railroad owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that extends north to Framingham. For service outside the region via the National Rail Network, MCRR connects with CSX, one the country’s largest nationwide freight railroads, in two places. The first is at an interchange in Taunton for the New Bedford/ Fall River Lines and the second is in Middleboro for rail traffic on and off Cape Cod.

MCRR serves approximately a dozen customers and provides jobs for more than 60 people. The railroad indirectly supports thousands of jobs at dozens of Massachusetts companies. MCRR owns and operates 10 locomotives that service freight hauling on the tracks in our system.

Transporting freight by railroad is a much better option than trucks when it comes to hauling heavy, dense loads over long distances. Railroads are roughly four times more fuel efficient than trucks. Meanwhile, shipping via rail limits greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the carbon footprint. In fact, moving freight by rail instead of truck lowers greenhouse gas emissions for moving that cargo by 75%.

On Cape Cod, the transportation of common household waste (known as Municipal Solid Waste, or MSW) and Construction Demolition Debris (C&D) from towns on the lower Cape currently occurs over rail. Hundreds of thousands of tons of waste filling thousands of railcars
are collected at transfer stations on the Cape and shipped by rail to landfills all along the eastern seaboard every month.

Many other cargoes travel by rail onto the Cape, as well. These include treatments for clean drinking water, flour, frozen seafood, malt beverages and feed ingredients like corn, canola meal, beet pulp and distillers mash.

In addition, our trains carry steel, lumber, wallboard scrap metal and roadway safety treatments. We also haul transformers and other dimensional heavy loads.

In addition to other benefits, moving cargo by rail reduces the wear and tear – and traffic - on
the Cape Cod Canal Bridges and other highways in Massachusetts.

The MCRR’s “Energy Train” operates between Yarmouth and West Wareham transporting MSW from the Yarmouth Transfer Station to the “SEMASS” power plant in Rochester, MA that generates electricity for thousands of local homes and businesses. Over 130,000 tons of
household waste, or MSW, is transported off the Cape by rail annually, reducing congestion on the Cape’s highways and bridges with a much lower carbon footprint than if it were hauled by truck.

Similarly, the MCRR’s waste hauling operations on the Falmouth Secondary Line eliminates thousands of truck trips on Routes 28, 25 and I-495 in both directions on the Bourne Bridge.

All this rail activity occurs on the “Third Bridge” over the Canal.

Note** See Cape Cod Commission 2020 Regional Transportation Plan Appendix E Summary. Encourage types of Freight Transportation and Make Infrastructure Improvements for the Same.

CCCR is a popular, important tourist attraction which runs from April through December on the Falmouth Secondary Line and the Cape Main Line which runs from Hyannis to Bourne. It boosts the local economy and creates indirect economic benefits for Cape-based companies and residents. The train offers dinner, lunch and brunch, excursions, and special event trains. These include Rails & Ales Beer Tasting Train and a wine tasting train highlighting products from local breweries and wineries. It also offers the popular Polar Express Train Ride, a Christmas train which hosts 30,000 people from around New England, and beyond, creating economic activity on the Cape during the “off season”.

The CCCR is a sister railroad to MCRR, with common ownership. It does not haul freight.

The Falmouth Secondary Line, constructed in 1872, runs generally north/south for six miles from the Cape Cod Canal railroad bridge through Bourne, Sandwich and Falmouth. It ends near Rt. 151 in North Falmouth. The line is a valuable, essential piece of rail infrastructure for Cape Cod.

The Otis Branch runs east for about 3 miles from the Falmouth Secondary near Rt. 151 onto the Mass Military Reservation, formerly Otis Air Force Base. The Otis Branch terminates at the Upper Cape Regional Transfer Station (“UCRTS”).

Owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (“MASSDOT“) the Falmouth Secondary line is part of what is known as the Southeastern Mass Rail Lines. These rail asset were purchased from CONRAIL in 1982 for the purposes of preserving freight rail service for the Cape. Since then, the SE Mass lines have been operated by MCRR under a license issued by MASSDOT. The Freight Rights are administered separately by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (USSTB), a federal agency.

The region benefits from the Falmouth Secondary Line in much the same way that is does from MCRR’s, with a significant reduction in truck traffic on Cape roads and bridges and a significantly reduced carbon footprint from hauling freight. It keeps nearly 1,000 trucks off Cape roads and bridges every year, with a significant increase in that number envisioned in the near future.

The UCRTS facility has become the “regional disposal location” for “bulky items” that are not MSW (typical household trash) from Falmouth, Mashpee and Sandwich. The facility will also handle MSW in the near future.

The Bourne Rail Trail is a proposed, taxpayer funded $20 million bike path that would entirely remove the Falmouth Secondary line, and eliminate the benefits created by the more than 150 year-old rail line.

Removing the Falmouth Secondary Line tracks would permanently eliminate the existing rail capacity the line creates, crippling freight rail service on the Cape. It would also negatively impact the ability of the MCRR to serve the region as a whole. Replacing the Falmouth Secondary Line with a bike path would also add thousands of trucks to the Cape’s already congested roads and bridges, while creating a spike in the emission of greenhouse gases in our communities.

Thousands of tractor trailers hauling all kinds of trash would be added to the traffic mix on the Cape’s roads and bridges. These trucks would drive onto the Cape empty and leave full of trash. Taxpayers, homeowners and businesses would see major increases in disposal costs. Everyone would incur an added expense, with higher costs for transfer station customers, higher taxes and other negative impacts.

Over 9,000 truck trips would be added at present volumes of C&D waste alone. It’s important to note that a truck hauling trash (instead of that waste leaving the Cape on Falmouth Secondary Line) would travel to the Cape empty, then be loaded with trash for the trip off the Cape.

Yes – the MCRR always conducts business with the community in mind and is glad to work to find a compromise solution on important issues like this.

The MCRR supports a “rail with trail alternative”. This would build the proposed $20 million taxpayer funded bike path parallel to the Falmouth Secondary Line, creating a new recreation asset for the community while preserving freight rail capacity for the Cape. A successful example of the “rail with trail” approach can already be seen in Falmouth where the Shining Sea Bike Path and the Falmouth Secondary Line share the right of way south of County Road. Another example of this successful compromise approach can be seen in nearby Rhode Island, where a popular bike path and a heavily used, existing freight rail line operate side-by-side along the Blackstone River in Cumberland, R.I.

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