I am here to speak in favor of the Southcoast Rail project, which on March 15, 2017, filed a Notice of Project Change, which proposes to proceed with building a phase one route utilizing the Middleboro line. I want to thank Governor Baker, Chairman Straus and the local legislature delegation for their leadership and advocacy in bringing this project to fruition. The region’s Mayors, Selectpersons, City Councilors, the Southcoast Rail Committee, the Southcoast Development Partnership, the Chambers of Commerce and countless citizens have voiced their support, and have been instrumental in moving this project forward. After 30 years of promises, commitments and endless studies, New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton and Freetown will see passenger service within the next 3-5 years. This is a GAME CHANGER for our region – the rail connection will provide economic opportunity, transportation equity, environmental relief, smart growth planning, personal productivity and unleash personal leisure time throughout our communities.
The following are substantive bullets which contrast the Stoughton versus Middleboro routes, and illustrate the wisdom and desirability of beginning the Southcoast Rail project using existing rail routes and the existing Middleboro line:
- Middleboro extension estimate is $250 Million to $350 Million. This provides both passenger and freight service,
- Stoughton Southcoast Rail Project Estimate is $3.4 Billion. Cost of running train on AMTRAK Tracks hasn’t been calculated.
- Middleboro extension can be accomplished within 3-5 years,
- Stoughton Southcoast Rail Project, provided funding source can be identified and secured, would take 13 years to complete.
PASSENGER POPULATION BASIN
- Middleboro Extension, with extension to Buzzards Bay, Wareham and Upper Cape, will have service, as well as entire Southcoast region. The route connects the Southcoast to Bridgewater State University and University of Massachusetts Boston campuses,
- Stoughton Southcoast Rail Project – services Fall River and New Bedford region. Expands service options to cities and towns that already have rail service.
- Middleboro Extension – Rail follows existing tracks, minimal environmental impact and permitting issues; uses existing diesel locomotives. Takes thousands of automobiles off the road. Route can be electrified in the future.
- Stoughton Southcoast Rail Project – Significant environmental challenges and permitting issues, as rail is constructed and traverses through Hockomock Swamp. This route requires electrified trains to have a chance at successful permitting, which makes costs prohibitive. Decreases travel time due to ability of electric trains to accelerate and decelerate, but route is opposed by all towns north of Raynham. Takes thousands of automobiles off the road. Doubtful that engineering issues regarding Hockomock trestle and elevations going through towns can be resolved in a cost effective manner.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND SMART GROWTH
- Middleboro Extension – Middleboro Extension uses same southern triangle and stations that Stoughton Southcoast Rail Project has planned for the past 10 years. Positive impact related to economic development and smart growth areas is the same, but realized much quicker. Downtown Taunton station can be connected to southern triangle and Middleboro secondary line by way of Silver City station through inexpensive spur. This will allow for all previously planned stations for New Bedford, Fall River, Freetown and Taunton, to be built and serviced. Adding Buzzards Bay and Wareham will expand passenger basin. Eventually, expanding seasonable service, into year-round service, to Hyannis will provide full service to the Cape.
- Stoughton Southcoast Rail Project – Controversial rail route north of Raynham will bring lawsuits to block route, in addition, the construction disruption in downtown areas will negatively impact economic development in the Town of Mansfield, Stoughton, Easton, and Canton. Plus, the route is cost prohibitive and unlikely to be built.
- Middleboro Extension – The Travel time will be longer, but relative to what? Travel time is estimated between 80-90 minutes. This is at least 20-30 minutes quicker than driving an automobile to Boston during rush hour. Plus, this does not involve time to park. The train will also provide work or leisure time for the traveler, versus the stress of battling the rush hour traffic on Routes 140, 24 and 93 and/or Route 3.
- Stoughton Southcoast Rail Project – The travel route is estimated at 75-80 minutes using electric trains. This route will never be built.
FREQUENCY OF TRAIN SERVICE
- Middleboro Extension – Fall River, New Bedford, Freetown and Taunton will receive two trains during AM and PM rush hour to begin with, plus regular service throughout the day. Additional train service during the day and early evening, will depend on demand. As the bottlenecks north of Braintree are resolved, service will be expanded. Southern triangle will be consolidated north of Bridgewater State to allow for through-trains to South Station. Some trains may be scheduled for few stops to shorten travel time. All trains should stop at Bridgewater for Bridgewater State University and JFK for UMass Boston access, Passengers will have the ability to transfer in Braintree, Quincy and JFK to MBTA service. Eventually, route will provide access to the Cape.
- Stoughton Southcoast Rail Project does not provide access to Bridgewater State, UMass Boston or the Cape. Plus the route is cost prohibitive and unlikely to be built.
- The public wants train service, period. The region is not wed to a route; they want a practical, affordable solution to the 30-year Southcoast rail issue. The illusory rail project through Stoughton is dead. It’s time to move forward using existing rail.
- The Southcoast Rail Team under the leadership of James Eng deserves tremendous credit for their tireless work on this most important social justice transportation project, economic development project, and environmental justice project. The important details of the project regarding completion and scheduling will be forthcoming in the near future. The region’s citizens look forward to working with the team for the success of this project.
- Lastly, there are two major components of this project that must be added to the equation. First, the downtown Taunton station must be built and connected by a spur to the Silver City station. Considerable smart growth planning has gone into the downtown Taunton station. This is an important transportation/economic development project to reinvigorate the center of Downtown. The tracks already exist to connect the Downtown to the Silver City Station. Second, Wareham, Buzzards Bay and near Cape service including Hyannis must be incorporated into the Southcoast Rail project. The Middleboro line will function more efficiently and serve a far greater population basin by establish the Cape Cod Flyer service into full year round commuter service. There will be no need to relocate the Middleboro/Lakeville station if train service begins south of Middleboro, this will save considerable time and money and reaffirm the original smart growth planning of the Middleboro/Lakeville station when the Old Colony Line was re-established.
Scott W. Lang