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South Coast RailThe South Coast Rail project is well into its first year of permitting and design. Surveyors are measuring the rights-of-way, geotechnical field work is underway, and designers are considering bridges, crossings and signals. Reestablishing transit connections between the South Coast and Boston is more than designing a railroad and stations. For seven years, the Commonwealth has helped the cities and towns of southeastern Massachusetts welcome and shape the growth likely to result from new connections.

At an event on May 7 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM at UMass Law School in Dartmouth, the Rail to Boston Coalition and the South Coast Rail Task Force will celebrate the planning and coordination that have marked this groundbreaking partnership. The event will also recognize the leadership of Kristina Egan, MassDOT’s former South Coast Rail Project Manager (2007 – 2011), and John Bullard, who chaired the Task Force for ten years.

“Under the leadership of Kristina at MassDOT and John on the Task Force, South Coast Rail made enormous progress and gained tremendous momentum,” said Jean Fox, current South Coast Rail Project Manager at MassDOT. “The years of state-supported planning around the train have enabled communities to define and oversee unique preferences for development and preservation, while coming together as a region to develop land use strategies that are mutually beneficial,” she added.

The celebration will highlight how hundreds of people have worked together to develop a smart growth future for the South Coast. Smart growth clusters jobs, homes and transportation, promoting mixed use, and connected and walkable neighborhoods. It emphasizes preserving local resources, including people, land and water, while concentrating new development in areas where infrastructure exists.

The 2009 South Coast Rail Economic Development and Land Use Corridor Plan lays out a blueprint for the region’s smart growth goals. MassDOT, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) partnered with communities and regional planning agencies to develop the plan, identifying opportunities for growth and development, known as Priority Development Areas (PDAs), and areas best suited for protection, known as Priority Protection Areas (PPAs).

“By mapping consensus places for local desires, regional considerations and statewide goals for development and conservation, the Corridor Plan provides a framework for coordinating public and private actions to realize a smart growth vision for the region,” said Victor Negrete, of EOHED. “The five-year update of the priority area map reflects some changes in priorities over time. What remains constant is the commitment to partnership between local, regional and state stakeholders.”

MassDOT-funded Technical Assistance grants have helped communities implement the Corridor Plan and its goals. As of FY15, more than $1.6 million in grants have provided valuable support and resources to the communities. After seven years of strategic investment based on smart growth principles, the 31 cities and towns of the South Coast Rail corridor are beginning to envision a smart growth future.

These successes took the cooperation and determination of local residents, business owners, organizations, municipal officials and regional planning agencies who identified PPAs and PDAs. Staff of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), Old Colony Planning Council (OCPC) and Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) coordinated with community planners, elected municipal officials and citizens, who developed, and continue to update, the goals for their communities.

Recently, SRPEDD, MAPC and OCPC coordinated a Community Priority 5-Year Update to confirm or revise previous designations in light of potential changes in municipal priorities. Regional planning agencies also incorporated newly available geographic information system (GIS) data. EOHED and EEA will unveil a second round of updates with new priority maps at the May 7 event.

For more information, contact the event team: eisherwood@micomm.com or 508-996-3946 x13.

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