Years in the making, South Coast Rail project begins with groundbreaking

SE Mass

FREETOWN, Mass. (WPRI) — Work on the South Coast Rail project ceremoniously got underway Tuesday.

Massachusetts governors have been promising trains to New Bedford and Fall River since the early 1990s. Now, Gov. Charlie Baker and other dignitaries officially broke ground during a ceremony in Freetown.

“I’m more than a little aware of how long the conversations associated with this project have been going on,” Baker said.

The new commuter line seeks to connect Taunton, New Bedford and Fall River to Boston’s South Station.

Crews have spent the last week working to replace culverts along the rail lines in the town. It’s part of the first phase of the project, which the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said would be complete by 2022.

Baker doesn’t believe the project will be completed until 2023.

“This particular region of the Commonwealth has not had access to commuter rail service for a very long time,” Baker said.

The second phase of the project calls for a full electric line through Stoughton and comes with an estimated cost of more than $3 billion. It’s unclear when that part of the project will begin.

Baker said his administration split the project into phases in order to get service up and running faster than the original proposal.

“I wish to hell it could be done by 2022 to tell you the truth, for all kinds of reasons, but 2023 is a heck of a lot better than 2030,” Baker said.

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