South Coast Rail Project on Track for 2023 Completion, Officials Say
State transportation officials told New Bedford residents at a remote meeting on Tuesday that the long-promised South Coast Rail project is nearing the halfway point, and is expected to start carrying passengers by the end of 2023.
Project Manager Jean Fox said that some construction work at two New Bedford train stations — one of which is a southern terminus for the project, which will connect commuter trains to Boston from New Bedford and Fall River — has already started.
She spoke at a community meeting on Tuesday evening, outlining what has been accomplished thus far for the $1 billion rail project, and what city residents can expect in the year to come.
Although much of the work up to now has been on the rail lines around Middleboro, Fox noted, workers are already making their way south, with tracks being laid and fencing, grade crossings, and culverts going up all along the rail corridor.
"COVID didn't stop us at all," Fox said proudly, noting that MassDOT has already completed $155 million of construction work through the end of 2021. "We are on time, on budget, and fully funded."
New Bedford will be seeing two train stations, one at Church Street and another, the terminus, at Wamsutta next to the Whale's Tooth parking lot.
Plans for the Church Street station include an 800-foot platform with a canopy; bicycle and EV parking as well as a 355-space lot; bus stop and drop-off space; sidewalks and landscaping; and new signals and other improvements at the Church Street/Nash Road intersection.
The New Bedford station will have many of the same features, as well as a pedestrian bridge over Route 18 and pedestrian and vehicle access from Acushnet Avenue.
Parking plans include a lot with 352 spaces, and shared parking with the seasonal SeaStreak ferry/Whale's Tooth lot.
City residents will be seeing a lot of construction activity at both locations and along the track north this year, Fox said.
Residents in areas expected to be affected by construction will be notified with flyers when work is set to begin.
According to Fox, the project is on track to reach the halfway point this spring, and "revenue service" — or the point at which trains will be carrying passengers — is anticipated for late next year.
Residents asked questions on everything from parking (there should be plenty) and fares (as-yet undetermined) to why the train won't stop at the industrial park or extend to the ferry terminals (short answer: they're not in the project budget, but could be provided in the future.)
Officials noted that the train to Boston from New Bedford will likely take around 90 minutes, and admitted that nothing is yet in the works to address potential congestion on the line from Braintree to Boston.
"It's amazing to work on a project of this scope and importance," concluded meeting moderator Nancy Farrell, CEO of communications firm Regina Villa Associates. "Thank you."