FREETOWN — On Monday morning, outgoing Governor Charlie Baker and other state and local officials cut the ribbon on the new Freetown commuter rail station.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority manager Steve Poftak said the event also celebrated the completion of the Fall River secondary rail line, which he called "a major step" in completing the South Coast Rail project.

The long-awaited service is still expected to begin in late 2023, according to Poftak.

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Baker and other officials arrived at the press conference by train, taking a brand-new coach — one of 16 purchased and currently being tested by the MBTA for use on the South Coast line.

Poftak listed features of the 800-foot, fully accessible Freetown station as canopies for inclement weather, a bicycle shelter, and electric vehicle parking, along with necessities like signage, lighting, and security cameras.

He added that environmental considerations during the project include a soil management program that allows the reuse of soil, and reusing granite from rebuilt culverts to create artificial reefs off parts of Cape Cod.

"We're still working hard on the New Bedford branch," he stated.

In his comments, Baker noted the long history behind the South Coast Rail project.

"So the first thing I wanna say is, I appreciate your patience," he joked.

The outgoing governor said he remembered already decades-old conversations about getting rail service to the region — "the only two major municipalities within 50 miles of Boston that didn't have it" — in the 1990's.

"I am really looking forward to being able to come back here as a private citizen at some point in 2023 and being able to hop on that train," he said.

Meanwhile Fall River resident and State Rep. Carole Fiola compared the excitement to that of last week's royal visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales to Boston.

"Well, they said that the royal visit was probably the most exciting event to happen in Massachusetts this year, but for me and for us here, it is this day," she said.

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