The new train route that will carry passengers from Boston to Hyannis has some towns along the route rolling out the welcome mat, and some others feeling they've been left out of the loop.
“We don’t know anything about it,” Middleborough Selectman Allin J. Frawley said about the Cape Flyer service, which state transportation officials announced last week. “It would have been nice if the state told us – common courtesy. I could have sworn we still lived in the state.”
On the other hand, Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan said he knew that the plan had been on the table for years, and he had learned a few weeks ago that it had become a reality.
“I know Braintree is the gateway to Cape Cod; we’re positioned to be a stop,” said Sullivan, who added that he hopes the trains will lure tourists to Braintree’s many historic resources.
The service will begin on May 24, running on weekends between Boston’s South Station and Hyannis, with stops at Braintree, Middleborough/Lakeville, and Buzzards Bay.
Thomas Cahir, administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, which will lease the trains from the MBTA, said the Cape Flyer is intended to relieve the notorious backups at the bridges over the Cape Cod Canal.
Train schedules have been coordinated with ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and RTA buses will meet riders at Hyannis to take them just about anywhere on the Cape, Cahir said.
“You can actually come to the Cape without your car,” said Cahir, who said the service could carry as many as 2,500 passengers per weekend.
Though plans for the Cape Flyer were reported in the news media late last year, the topic had slipped under the radar until last week’s announcement. That left some local officials complaining about the lack of communication and questioning the wisdom of spending $20 million to launch the service.
State Representative Keiko Orrall, a Lakeville Republican who regularly attends regional transportation meetings, said that discussion of Cape rail service had been lumped in with discussions of South Coast Rail, an ambitious plan to link Boston with New Bedford and Fall River.
“South Coast Rail is years away; it was not clear [rail service to the Cape] was fast-tracked,” Orrall said.
“I appreciate providing more access to the Cape,’’ said Orrall. “But shouldn’t Middleborough and Lakeville be notified so they can also benefit from the economic activity? All local officials should be aware of what’s going on.”
Lakeville Town Administrator Rita Garbitt learned about the Cape rail service from a Globe reporter. “Really? We haven’t been notified,’’ she said. “This is the first I’ve heard about it.”
She, Orrall, and Frawley attended a March 26 meeting in Taunton that focused on public transportation. They said Richard A. Davey, the state’s transportation secretary, attended but did not mention the Cape Flyer.
Middleborough Town Manager Charles J. Cristello said he learned about the service in the last week of March, when he saw crews upgrading rail crossings and was told that trains would be rolling through beginning Memorial Day weekend.
Since then, Cristello learned that the trains will hit speeds of 60 miles an hour in Middleborough, on tracks that customarily see only garbage-hauling trains at 30 miles an hour.
“They really should be preparing people, especially when the trains are doubling their speed,’’ Cristello said.
Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said local communities weren’t notified because there won’t be a substantial change in service.
Stephen C. Smith, executive director of the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District, took a similar view.
“Frankly, I don’t know if there will be much impact to local towns. I doubt it will significantly impact Middleborough and Lakeville,” he said.
Noting that traffic to the Cape can back up more than 10 miles on weekends, Smith said: “People don’t want to deal with Cape traffic; I avoid the Cape on the weekends.”
Although Orrall called rail service to the Cape “awesome,” she thinks transportation money should go toward high-priority projects or those that have languished on the drawing board while waiting for funding.
“I don’t understand why, when we have critical transportation needs, this jumped to the top of the list,” said Orrall, noting that the Middleborough rotary on Route 44 has needed improvements for years.
In some other towns, meanwhile, local officials are looking forward to the Cape Flyer.
The chairman of Bourne’s Board of Selectmen, John A. Ford Jr., said his town is gearing up for an influx of tourists, and added that he and his wife are just as excited at the thought of boarding the train for a day trip to Boston.
Ford said he had known for some time that the project was in the works, but he didn’t know until a month ago that it would happen this year. Ford also said businesses are preparing to offer packages to visitors, taxi service has been beefed up, and the Historical Commission is considering outfitting people in old-time costumes to greet tourists when they disembark.
The train won’t be stopping in Wareham this year, but if Salvador Pina has his way, it will in 2014.
Pina, Wareham’s director of community and economic development, says the village center along the waterfront is being overhauled in preparation for a 90-room Marriott hotel next spring.
Though tracks already run through the village, there’s no passenger platform. “We’d like a stop next year, without a doubt. It would help economic activity,’’ said Pina. “Part of it is being prepared for it.”
Further information on the Cape Flyer is available at www.capeflyer.com.
Alice C. Elwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.