FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — The South Coast Rail project is still on time and on budget, according to project leaders.
“We are close to 90% done,” Jean Fox, director of community engagement for the project said.
Project leaders not only provided details Thursday night on the project’s progress, but also fielded questions and concerns from community members.
One of those concerns was how the project got this far into construction without full approval by the residents that would be entering into service with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).
A state law puts the question on the Nov. 8 ballot, asking residents in Fall River and New Bedford if they want to opt in to the MBTA. Without a majority vote, it would mean rail service would not occur.
“We will hold you accountable, if the city of Fall River says no, because the vote needs to be respected,” Fall River resident Nelson Vasquez said.
Vasquez told 12 News he’s against the commuter rail being in Fall River due to fears that it will increase the cost of living.
“We feel that it’s important to take back our city’s autonomy from any type of situation like this, because once you join the MBTA, they own you,” Vasquez said.
Project leaders and city officials said there will be plenty of benefit to the project, starting with bringing back commuter rail service to Boston, which last operated in the 1950s.
“It provides incredible economic development opportunity for the region, and it’s reciprocal, it goes both ways,” Fox said. “We already have people that are looking to relocate down here, because they will have that rail connection instead of Route 24.”
Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan is in support of the project. He believes it will be a positive thing for city residents to take advantage of.
“We have a number of students, shoppers, Red Sox fans that use the Route 24 expressway into Boston, and they’ll be much better off on the train,” Coogan said.
Project leaders said that major parts of the construction on the Fall River and Freetown stations will be done over the next 10 weeks, including paving parking lots, testing signals and other site cleanup.
In a virtual meeting in March, those working on the project said the extension from Middleboro to New Bedford is 20% complete. Project leaders said Thursday that, as of August, the extension was also on schedule at 53% completion.
The South Coast Rail is expected to begin service in late 2023.