Transportation

Mass. picks 3 South Coast transit options to proceed to full environmental review

A ‘preferred’ option may be named around Labor Day

COURTESY COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
THE ATTLEBORO rail option, in brown; Stoughton rail option, in red; and an MBTA express-bus option all will be considered in the Executive Office of Transportation’s environmental review.
Posted 4/7/09

BOSTON – State and federal officials have eliminated several alternatives from the list that will be evaluated in the environmental review for the South Coast Rail project, according to the Mass. Executive Office of Transportation & Public Works (EOT).

The project “will address a long-standing transportation inequity,” by restoring passenger service from the state’s South Coast to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s South Station in Boston, the office said. (READ MORE)

“EOT has committed to a full and transparent environmental review process under state and federal law,” the office added. And now, working with the Mass. secretary of energy and environmental affairs and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state transportation officials have narrowed the focus of that review to three options.

Besides a “no-build” alternative, the EOT will focus on:

• Commuter rail through Attleboro: Fall River and New Bedford would gain access to South Station via a new bypass track through Norton and Attleboro to the Northeast Corridor. The study will evaluate both electric and diesel trains.

• Commuter rail through Stoughton, the state’s preferred route: Fall River and New Bedford would gain service to South Station via a new link through Stoughton; an option might extend service to the Whittenton section of Taunton. Electric and diesel options will be evaluated.

• Rapid bus: Fall River, New Bedford and Taunton would gain access to Boston via a dedicated, mostly-reversible bus lane that would be constructed along Route 24 and Interstate 93 / 128. The proposed bus service also would use the existing I-93 high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) “zipper” lane, and for a short portion of its trip, would travel through mixed traffic.

The Environmental Notification Form (ENF) for the project, issued on Nov. 24, contained feasibility information for five transit alternatives – down from 65 initial possibilities gathered by state officials in earlier public meetings. In December, state officials and the Army Corps held additional hearings across the region, as required by the Mass. Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), and received more than 120 letters or e-mails commenting on the ENF. Those comments, and preliminary ridership forecasts for the ENF’s five alternatives, helped determine which alternatives would proceed to full environmental review.

A preferred alternative is expected to be named in the draft environmental document, slated for release around Labor Day. Route selection will not be final until the final environmental document is complete, probably next spring, the transportation office said.

“We are on schedule to restore transit service to Fall River and New Bedford at a crucial time for the economy of the region and the commonwealth,” said Transportation Secretary James Aloisi. “We are committed to serving the fast-growing South Coast with a real action plan to secure our economic future that balances transportation needs, economic development and environmental goals.”

Information about the South Coast Rail project is available from the Mass. Executive Office of Transportation & Public Works at www.SouthCoastRail.com. Information about other transit projects across the Bay State is available from the EOT at www.eot.state.ma.us, while information about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is available at www.mbta.com.

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