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South Coast RailThe Baker-Polito Administration’s Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has filed a Notice of Project Change (NPC) for the South Coast Rail (SCR) Project with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office on March 15, 2017.

The Notice advances South Coast Rail as a phased project that uses the existing Middleborough/Lakeville Commuter Rail Line to provide early action service (Phase 1) sooner than if the project was constructed all at once while continuing preliminary engineering design and permitting on the Stoughton Electric route (Phase 2).

“Our administration is committed to providing the South Coast with commuter rail service as expeditiously and efficiently as possible,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Pursuing the Middleborough/Lakeville early action service while advancing the Stoughton Electric final phase service will facilitate commuter rail service to the region years earlier.”

“We are proud to continue collaborating with elected and local officials and key stakeholders in developing the South Coast Rail Project,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Through transportation infrastructure projects such as the South Coast Rail Project, we can empower people throughout the region and the Commonwealth and ensure Massachusetts continues to move forward.”

Splitting the project into phases will enable MassDOT to make use of the 7.5 mile Middleborough Secondary Line, which must be upgraded to handle commuter rail traffic. While the MEPA review is underway, MassDOT will advance work on the so-called Southern Triangle, from Cotley Junction in Taunton south through Berkley, Lakeville, Freetown, Fall River, and New Bedford, which is common to both the early action and final phases of the project.

“We are pleased to continue advancing the South Coast Rail Project and working towards providing commuter rail service to the South Coast region in a timely and efficient manner,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “This Notice of Project Change allows MassDOT to analyze impacts and incorporate public input of the proposed change to develop this project in phases. This will enable us to provide passenger rail to the South Coast region years sooner than would be the case if the project were constructed at one time.”

“Filing of a Project Change Notice by the Baker-Polito Administration in favor of a ‘Middleborough Route’ is a major advancement for getting the permits to bring early commuter rail service to the South Coast,” said Rep. Bill Straus, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation.  “The Governor deserves a great deal of credit in pushing for this route change, which can bring us actual commuter rail service faster and cheaper and with fewer permit hassles than the bogged down Stoughton Route. A one-seat ride to Boston by this route presents a realistic choice, at a third of the cost, to see commuter rail service restored to the South Coast.”

The first phase of the project would extend the existing Middleborough/Lakeville Line via the Middleborough Secondary Line which provides a quicker, less expensive option for service to and from New Bedford and Fall River. Trains heading towards the South Coast would then join the New Bedford Main Line and continue to New Bedford or branch off on the Fall River Secondary to Fall River. Phase 1 service would be diesel as the existing Middleborough Line does not include the overhead catenary required for electric service. Phase 1 would also include the construction of several new stations and layover facilities in the Southern Triangle.

“This is an important step in helping to bring commuter rail service to Southeastern Massachusetts,” said State Senator Michael Rodrigues.  “I thank MassDOT for continuing to develop the South Coast Rail project, and I look forward to seeing its many benefits, including greater transportation access and increased economic opportunity.”

“For several years I have maintained that Phase One of South Coast Rail is a project that should be fully vetted,” said State Representative Keiko Orrall. “There is currently existing rail between Fall River, New Bedford, and Taunton to Boston. I believe that with improvements and public input it will prove to be the best solution for the transportation needs of the South Coast.  I appreciate the Baker-Polito administration’s willingness to look into Phase One as an option.”

As the early action service is permitted and implemented, MassDOT would continue to advance design of the Stoughton Electric Phase 2 of the SCR Project. This phase consists of new track, signals, and stations between Canton Center and Cotley Junction.

The NPC will be found at the Project’s website as well as in MEPA’s Environmental Monitor. A public comment period is scheduled to end on April 21, 2017. An SCR public meeting is also currently being scheduled; information about this session will be made available on the project website and through emails to the mailing list.

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