South Coast Rail Far More Expensive Than Previously Thought
Alright, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an expansive infrastructure project in Massachusetts is not only delayed, but cost estimates are higher than previously anticipated.
State transportation officials placed a new, cool, $3.4 billion price tag on the South Coast Rail project this week, with service anticipated to begin in 2028 0r 2029, the State House News Service reports. Four years ago, it was thought the project would cost $2.23 billion with an anticipated 2022 start date. At the time, outgoing MBTA general manager Frank DePaola predicted that every month of delay would heap another $4.1 million onto the bottom line.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told reporters Monday that the project, despite the ballooning cost estimates and delays, will not be canceled.
As currently proposed, the South Coast Rail project plans to extend rail from Stoughton, through the protected Hockomock Swamp, and underneath historic downtown Easton. It would be a 75-minute ride from New Bedford to Boston, with 4,500 riders expected each day.
But DePaola, who retires Thursday, has proposed an alternative in order to circumvent the swamp, extending the line from its Middleborough/Lakeville terminus to Taunton before proceeding to Fall River and New Bedford. This version would tack on an addition 15 minutes to the New Bedford to Boston run, as well as six to eight years onto the completion date.
If transportation officials decide the only way forward is through the swamp, the project will require nine wetland variances, estimated to take up to six and a half years to obtain. The project also calls for the first electrified commuter rail, which could present its own unique set of technological obstacles for the MBTA.