Am I the only one who thinks construction for the South Coast Rail Project at Tarkiln Hill Road in New Bedford has lasted an eternity? There always seems to be something going on there that requires work crews, detours and traffic cops.

Recent projects have included track replacement, traffic light installment, the widening of Kings Highway and Tarkiln Hill Road to accommodate an anticipated increase in traffic once train service begins, and the slight southerly shift of the square where the Polish American Veterans Monument sits.

What is the latest construction project at the rail crossing? Work crews are installing new traffic islands in the center of the road.

Islands Placed At New Bedford's Tarkiln Hill Rd. Rail Crossing
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media

Holly Huntoon, Interim Public Information Officer for the City of New Bedford, says, "The islands are a safety treatment often used at grade crossings and were required by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and South Coast Rail for the Tarkiln Hill Road grade crossing."

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"The need for the islands was established during a field diagnostic meeting held in 2018 with the MBTA/SCR and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation District Utility and Constructability Engineer," Huntoon said.

According to Huntoon, the islands work in conjunction with the railroad gate arms to prevent vehicles from going around the gate arms when they are activated (in the down position)

New Islands Installed At New Bedford's Tarkiln Hill Rd. Rail Crossing
City of New Bedford

There will be no signal or warning lights on the islands, but traffic signs will warn motorists of the presence of the islands.

South Coast Rail service to New Bedford was expected to begin in the fall of 2023 but has been delayed until the summer of 2024. Think of how much more construction they can do at the rail crossing between now and then.

The South Coast Rail project has been on the planning board for more than 20 years.

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