Middleborough Officials Hold Off on South Coast Rail Vote
MIDDLEBOROUGH — While some in the south coast may be rolling their eyes at discussion surrounding the possibility of South Coast Rail (SCR), municipalities in the area are beginning to act on the most recent proposals from the state.
The Middleborough Board of Selectmen elected to delay voting on the proposal for a 'Middleborough Alternative' to SCR, making the town the connection point between the Boston and south coast lines.
The Board elected to take until February 26th to read through the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (DSEIR) filed by MassDOT, allowing them enough time to make an educated decision on the project. The Board set March 5th as the deadline to submit a written response in support or opposition to the 'Middleborough Alternative'.
Chairman Allin Frawley says he's against the 'Middleborough Alternative' plan for SCR, and expressed his frustration with MassDOT and state representatives for “continually leaving Middleborough out of the discussion.”
“We're going to take a few weeks to look over the report and come up with some comments and suggestions. It's my hope that we take a vote to oppose this plan,” said Frawley. “We, the Town of Middleborough, have had absolutely no involvement in the planning of this station since day one. We've been asking to be involved with this process for over two years.”
Vice-Chairman Stephen McKinnon is also skeptical of the project, and believes that it will not be beneficial to the town. He says it's important the Board to take its time in reviewing the DSEIR so they can properly point out where researchers were not thorough in their analysis, and request even more information on how it will help the town.
“The only piece of economically developable land is going to have to be used by South Coast Rail, so where's the economic development going to happen?” McKinnon asked. “It's not going to happen right there. So, I don't see it happening, nor do I find it helpful to our town.”
Selectman Diane Stewart isn't completely against the 'Middleborough Alternative' or South Coast Rail in general. Like Frawley and McKinnon, she was critical of “being locked out of the process” by MassDOT and supporters of the project, and says enough time to review the DSEIR is critical so the town can submit a specific response to the state.
“I'm not opposed to South Coast Rail necessarily. I am opposed to the way they presented it to us. I think we've been asking questions for a number of years, at least two years now, and we haven't been asked for any input,” Stewart explained. “We've been locked out of the process a lot, so we want to make sure that we have very specific points so we're not just opposing something, but we're saying what we think it fails to address in our community.”
Last week, Senate Assistant Majority Leader and Rules Chairman Mark C. Montigny (D-New Bedford) announced that he had been notified of MassDOT's filing of the DSEIR for Phase I commuter rail service to New Bedford.
According to the DSEIR, Phase 1 service from New Bedford would service seven round trips to Boston through Middleborough per day, and says a trip of approximately 91 minutes from New Bedford to South Station. Construction costs for Phase 1 of the project are estimated at $935 million with construction scheduled to start by the middle of 2019, making service operational by 2022.