PRESS RELEASE

Bay State South Coast Rail Plan Tethered to a Lead Balloon

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For Immediate Release: Mar 22, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Bay State South Coast Rail Plan Tethered to a Lead Balloon

Retaining Controversial Stoughton Alternative Dooms the Entire Plan to Failure

Boston — The latest version of the ill-fated Massachusetts South Coast Rail project is configured to never leave the depot, according to public comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) decision to combine two new, largely competitive rail lines creates insurmountable obstacles for the entire project.

After years of resisting the cheaper, less environmentally damaging Middleborough Alternative, MassDOT has now embraced it and proposes to build it first. Unfortunately, MassDOT is still clinging to the controversial Stoughton Alternative, which would plow through the Hockomock, the Commonwealth’s largest remaining vegetated freshwater wetland, as Phase 2.

“The Middleborough Line could have been built twenty years ago but for the previous opposition of MassDOT,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, an attorney and scientist formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “If Middleborough is built, there is absolutely no need to build the second phase of this project, the Stoughton Alternative.”

PEER points out that the two-phase rail plan is rooted in utterly unrealistic assumptions, such as –

  • Building both lines will cost the cost the same amount as one alone, even though the Middleborough Alternative requires reconstruction of 7.1 miles of existing Middleborough track, and a new station in Middleborough;
  • Federal environmental reviews will not require looking at the entire project. This fallacious legal assumption will jeopardize issuance of any permits; and
  • Transportation “redundancy” – by offering ridership on two different rail routes with the same starting stations and same destination – makes economic sense.

“Thinking through the MassDOT premises for this two-part project is guaranteed to produce an ice cream headache,” added Bennett, whose organization has been fighting to save the Hockomock Swamp and oppose the Stoughton Alternative since 2002. “Unfortunately, provincial politics has once again gotten in the way of rational transportation planning.”

Tomorrow is the public comment deadline for the agency’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report for Phase 1 (Middleborough) of the South Coast Rail Project.

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Read the PEER comments

Look at the tangled history of this project

View the PEER web-center dedicated to the Hockomock