NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Construction on the South Coast Rail Project is full steam ahead, and representatives from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) said Tuesday night the project is “on time and on budget.”
In a virtual meeting, the MBTA provided an update on the project to the New Bedford community that will soon be home to two new train stations.
“The commuter rail from Boston to New Bedford last operated in 1958,” said Randy Hunt, senior director of administration for the South Coast Rail Project. “Since then, freight rail came back to some extent in the 1990s and it sparked a lot of conversations about reintroducing commuter rail to New Bedford and Fall River and to Taunton as well.”
After years of back and forth and many environmental studies, a commuter rail to and from the south coast is finally in motion, and the MBTA said it’s on track to start operating in late 2023.
Those working on the project said the extension from Middleboro to New Bedford is 20% complete.
The project will be completed in phases. The first phase will extend a secondary line west from the Middleboro/Lakeville Line and create the New Bedford and Fall River lines.
The second phase the MBTA is calling “full build” will extend the Stoughton Line south, connecting communities to the New Bedford and Fall River lines.
“COVID didn’t stop us at all. By the fourth quarter of 2021, the New Bedford and Fall River contracts had completed about $155 million worth of work,” project manager Jean Fox said.
There will be six new stations and two layover facilities.
In New Bedford, the city will be getting two train stations: the New Bedford Station and the Church Street station.
Construction has started at the Church Street location where crews are building a platform and a parking lot that will have more than 300 spots.
“I think it’s a great thing for the city,” said Meaghan St. Jacques, manager of Brick Pizzeria. “It’s also a great thing for local businesses, especially ones that have been struggling, you know, get a few more people visiting, wanting to see the downtown life.”
Jacques said her shop’s customer base booms during the warmer months thanks to the ferries, and this new rail will only add to that.
As a lifelong New Bedford resident, she’s also thrilled to see the state investing in the south coast.
“You hear a lot of things about this and that and then it doesn’t happen. I know it takes a long time but it’s nice that it’s actually, I feel like, being put into effect,” she added.
Construction will be ramping up in the coming weeks and months.