Our November Infrastructure Committee meeting was devoted to proposed Commuter Rail to Southeastern Massachusetts.
The Regional Transit Authority reported that Taunton, Fall River, and New Bedford have continued, unaccommodated transit needs. Service to these areas has been on the table for several years, but there has been a protracted discussion over what route the line should take, with extensive environmental review.
The preferred route was through Stoughton, however a new route has been proposed going through Middleborough for half the cost of the Stoughton route. Public hearings have taken place over the last several months.
The Governor is reported to be interested in exploring the new route because the cost would be significantly less and it would bring rail service to the three cities above, plus Wareham and Buzzards Bay. They are contemplating whether or not it makes sense to switch course at this date and move forward with environmental permitting. A new station would need to be built, they say, but everything could be coordinated to accommodate service.
What does this mean for Buzzards Bay and Bourne? With the building of MA-25 traffic has been rerouted and the village is dwindling. MBTA service has the potential to revitalize the business area. Bourne residents have already voted to join the MBTA.
Rail on this side of the railroad bridge is not of the same infrastructure quality as off Cape, requiring trains to travel at Class 2 speed status once they cross the bridge. The Cape Flyer is in its fifth year, with alleged revenue exceeding operating costs. According to CCRTA, they don’t want to add any more stops in order to keep it a roughly two hour trip from Boston to Hyannis, running weekends Memorial Day to Labor Day.
There is fiber on Main Street that feeds to Mass Maritime, making it a good fit for people who work from home and commute in periodically. However, it was noted by the committee that for a fraction of what it would cost to bring commuter rail to the Cape we could connect all of the Cape with gigibit connectivity, decreasing the volume of people who commute off Cape.
The RTA expressed that it does not need to be an either/or decision. Ultimately it will be the transportation chairs who will determine after data is accumulated. If they hear from the community, they need to pay attention.