About the South Coast Rail project

Learn about the South Coast Rail project

The South Coast Rail project will restore commuter rail service between Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford are the only major cities within 50 miles of Boston that do not currently have commuter rail access to Boston. South Coast Rail will reconnect this region to jobs and generate economic development.

Table of Contents

Project Overview

South Coast Rail will be built in phases. Phase 1 service will provide a one-seat ride by extending the existing Middleborough/Lakeville commuter rail service from Boston to Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford. 

Elements of Phase 1:

  • Uses the Middleborough Secondary (currently a freight line) to provide service to Taunton, New Bedford, and Fall River. The Middleborough Secondary connects to Cotley Junction in East Taunton.
  • From Cotley Junction, Phase 1 trains will join the New Bedford Main Line and continue to New Bedford, or they will branch off on the Fall River Secondary to Fall River (this area is known as the Southern Triangle).

Benefits of Phase 1:

  • Reconstructs 12.1 miles of the Fall River Secondary
  • Reconstructs 24.1 miles of Middleborough Secondary and the New Bedford Main Line.
  • Improves freight service to the region and will provide redundancy for commuter rail riders once the Full Build is operating.

At the same time, MBTA will proceed with the conceptual design of the Stoughton Straight Electric Alternative (Full Build Project), which was already reviewed under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). The Full Build Project will travel on the Stoughton Main Line and Northeast Corridor (north of Canton Junction). The Full Build presents more challenges related to wetland impacts, complex engineering, electrification and cost. An anticipated service start date will be developed as the project advances.

Phase 1 and Full Build

To provide service to southeastern Massachusetts, South Coast Rail will be constructed in phases.

Phase 1 Project

  • Extends Commuter Rail service on the Middleborough/Lakeville Line to New Bedford, Fall River, and Taunton.
  • Phase 1 is fully funded with $1B in State revenue bonds, and construction has commenced.

Full Build Project

  • Extends Commuter Rail service on the Stoughton Line to the New Bedford and Fall River lines, connecting more communities, including Easton and Raynham, to Boston.
  • As part of Phase 1, the design team will begin conceptual design work and preliminary engineering for permitting. The South Coast Rail Project has funding to continue this preliminary engineering design; however, funding is not yet secured for construction of the Full Build program.

For more details, see the Phase 1 and Full Build corridor maps.

Phase 1 station locations

Phase 1 will continue service to nine existing stations on the Middleborough/Lakeville line and will add six new stations including:

  • Middleborough
  • East Taunton
  • Freetown
  • Fall River Depot
  • Church Street in New Bedford
  • New Bedford

For the exact locations of each station see the Phase 1 and Full Build corridor maps.

All stations will comply with MBTA standards and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, which include high-level platforms for "all-doors" boarding. Other amenities will include benches, canopies, bicycle storage and parking.

Phase 1 projected service

The MBTA plans to operate three morning peak trains and three evening peak trains to both New Bedford and Fall River. There will be up to six morning and evening trains to Taunton and Middleborough because all the trains will pass through these communities. During off-peak periods, three trains will likely operate on a 3-3 ½ hour frequency. However, these schedules are subject to change as the MBTA begins operations and continues to assess the Commuter Rail needs for this region.

Noise program eligibility

MassDOT evaluated noise levels anticipated from South Coast Rail trains according to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) guidelines and detailed the results in the 2013 Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report and the 2018 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report. While freight trains currently operate along the existing railroad corridor, they are infrequent. The Commuter Rail trains will run multiple trips every day, which creates additional noise. The MBTA has developed a noise mitigation program based on the FTA standards.

Based on this program, the MBTA will provide funding for a set of alternative noise mitigation measures to owners of properties that are affected by noise above the impact level. In Spring/Summer 2022 property owners will be contacted directly about the details of this program for affected homes and apartments. See the South Coast Rail Noise Program Frequently Asked Questions for more information. 

Construction impacts, timeline and contracts

Early Action Construction

MassDOT began Early Action construction projects in 2019 on South Coast Rail to prepare for the larger Phase 1 main line rail construction contracts. The first visible active construction projects were drainage culvert replacement and a major railroad grade crossing update in New Bedford. This work also included the construction of 5 wetland mitigation areas in the corridor and was substantially completed in Summer 2020. Additional work to replace four railroad bridges was completed in Fall 2020. The Early Action took place in Berkley, Fall River, Freetown, Lakeville, Middleborough, New Bedford, Raynham, and Taunton.

More information can be found on the SCR Construction Activity page.

Early Demolition Contract

The Early Demolition contract was awarded to DW White Construction of Acushnet and was completed in Fall 2020. This work involved the demolition of buildings and other structures located on MBTA controlled property at nine separate locations in Middleborough, Taunton, Berkley, Freetown, Fall River, and New Bedford. Demolition site work included asbestos and lead abatement; cutting/capping utilities; disposing of debris; backfill/grading/loam and seeding; and fencing.

Fall River Secondary Line Construction

This construction contract was awarded to Skanska DW White JV on May 11, 2020. Work on the Fall River Secondary will include track, stations, bridges, and a layover facility. Construction began Summer 2020 and is substantially complete.

New Bedford, Middleborough, Signal and Communications Contract

This construction contract was awarded to SCR Constructors JV on August 24, 2020. Work on the New Bedford Main Line to the Middleborough Secondary includes track, stations, bridges, a layover facility, and the signal and communications systems for all of Phase 1. Construction began in fall 2020 and continues.

Tree clearing

To ensure safe and unobstructed service, the MBTA needs a cleared right-of-way. Because the Phase 1 tracks have seen very limited use, overgrowth occurred and required tree cutting along the railroad corridor. Additional clearing may be anticipated in advance of revenue service.

Contractors are responsible for planning all necessary tree and vegetation removal. The schedule will be shared with the corridor communities as the project progresses. To maintain the safety and efficiency of the railway, trees and heavy brush obstructing the right-of-way will not be replaced.

Construction Mitigation

The contractors are required to prepare plans to manage and mitigate dust, noise, vibration and rodents during construction. If you should experience any of these, or other issues during construction, please contact the project team at SouthCoastRail@dot.state.ma.us

For any noise issues associated with construction work, please call the hotline at (774) 762-7000. This line will be answered Monday-Friday, between the hours of 7:00 AM and 3:30 PM (except holidays). All voicemails left outside of these hours will be received the following weekday. The project will respond to all calls.

Roadway impacts & overnight work

As with all major construction projects, roadway impacts will occur throughout project construction, particularly at grade crossings. The project team has been working with the cities and towns to maintain vehicle and pedestrian access through roadway work zones to the extent possible and to limit impacts on access to local businesses.

The MBTA and project team will continue to work to ensure all project updates and notices on construction impacts are communicated as soon as possible. The team works with the cities and towns to share the information and maintain open lines of communication.

You can also sign up for project-related email updates.

Public outreach

The South Coast Rail team continues to hold public meetings across the Phase 1 project communities. The project team meets regularly with the cities and towns to identify opportune times for the project team to present key information and updates to the public and neighborhood groups.

The South Coast Rail team anticipates meeting with a broad range of community organizations throughout construction. If you know of a neighborhood group that would benefit from an update from the team, please send us an email at SouthCoastRail@dot.state.ma.us

Property acquisitions and easements

All required Phase 1 property acquisitions and easements have been identified by the MBTA. The priority has been to acquire the properties needed for the stations and for construction. This process began in 2018 and continues to move forward.

MBTA community engagement & safety awareness

In addition to specific railroad safety measures, education is a key factor in addressing community safety. The South Coast Rail Project funded the development of instructive videos for railroad safety, geared to schools and the general public. This effort is supplemented by Operation Lifesaver volunteers. MassDOT and the MBTA work regularly with Operation Lifesaver, a national program sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), that provides community railroad safety education programs.

The MBTA and Keolis, the MBTA’s Commuter Rail operator, has been working with South Coast Rail community first responders to conduct regular emergency response drills and training.

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