Construction will begin this summer on a long-promised, long-delayed commuter rail link to Fall River and New Bedford, Governor Deval Patrick said today.
The announcement follows the state's purchase of more than 30 miles of track in the Taunton-Fall River-New Bedford triangle from the freight rail company CSX. The state and CSX closed on that sale late last week as part of a larger $100 million arrangement that has been in the works since 2008.
The CSX deal will also give the state control of track between Framingham and Worcester that will allow the MBTA to increase the number of commuter rail trips and improve commuter service between Boston and Worcester.
In a conference call with other state and federal officials, Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray told reporters that the "historic transaction" and start of construction will help ensure their administration's commitment to have commuter trains running between Boston's South Station and the South Coast region before the end of the decade.
Local politicians, civic leaders, and residents of Fall River and New Bedford have sought commuter rail as a way to revitalize their region, enhance its connection with Boston, boost property values, ease highway traffic, and facilitate redevelopment around rail stops. They have endured a succession of empty promises and delays for two decades.
This is different, Patrick, Senator John Kerry, and others promised them in this morning's call.
"This is real," said US Representative James P. McGovern, a Worcester Democrat whose district extends to Fall River. "This is not just a dream. This is not just a speech or rhetoric. This is real -- this is going to happen."
The work that will start this summer is a $22 million, 18-month project to refurbish multiple freight rail bridges in New Bedford to facilitate commuter rail travel along that part of the route.
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