Fall River Office of Economic Development

Fall River Office of Economic Development Fall River Office of Economic Development has a purpose of promoting the prosperity and general welf Jobs for Fall River, Inc.

(JOBS) was incorporated on March 29, 1978, and is a duly organized and existing Massachusetts 501 (c)(4) private non-profit corporation charged with the civic purpose of promoting the prosperity and general welfare of all the citizens of the City of Fall River by stimulating economic and industrial growth and expansion in the area. To act as a facilitator and funding conduit of community economic

development programs. To stimulate job creation so that the economic well-being of the citizens of Fall River is improved and thereby provide a better standard of living for those residents who are underemployed or unemployed. To encourage a larger flow of private investment funds from banks, investment houses, insurance companies, and other financial institutions, including pension retirement funds, to help satisfy the need for industrial expansion in the City of Fall River. To promote the recycling of land and facilities for economic development purposes. To have and exercise all rights and powers conferred on charitable corporations organized under the provisions of Chapter 180 of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


Drivers will see a new traffic pattern in Fall River.Route 79 will close for good and crews will work to connect the city to the waterfront.Crews will start wor


The Herald News, Wednesday, May 24, 2017 - Page A12

Suggestions taken to help develop waterfront, downtown

By Kevin P. O’Connor
Email: [email protected]

Fall River — When your children take their children to the boardwalk, they will see your ideas at work. But you have to act now.

The city’s Redevelopment Authority put up poster boards in city hall with a suggestion box next to them, asking city residents to offer their ideas for the master plan they hope will guide development on the waterfront and downtown for the next 20 years. “We are talking about the future, 10 to 15 years from now, of what the city will look like,” Mayor Jasiel Correia II said. “It is really important that we create the atmosphere of economic development.

“That is what this process is.”

The Redevelopment Authority worked with the Harriman Group of Boston to put together a plan for urban renewal that will guide the city. The plan must be approved by the city Planning Board and the City Council. It will then go to the state Department of Housing and Economic Development for approval.

“If it gets approval, we have a lot more tools available for development,” said William Kenney, the city planner and chair of the Redevelopment Authority. Having an urban renewal designation for those two areas will give the Redevelopment Authority the ability to issue bonds, borrow money, take property through eminent domain, lease property, recommend zoning changes and assemble parcels to make up a larger lot to aid development. “We have not had an urban renewal effort for decades,” Kenney said. “The reason for that is, largely, funding. “The Redevelopment Authority is poor. But we’ve had an influx of money lately with land sales to Amazon and others.”

The posters and the suggestion box will be in the atrium at Government Center until June 6, according to Emily Innes, a senior urban planner with the Harriman Group.

“We are looking for public input,” Kenney said. “That is part of this process. Plus, I’m the ultimate suggestion box. People can call me.” His number is 508-676-2561.

Suggestions were plentiful Tuesday. Joseph Carvalho, who led the fight against an LNG plant at Weaver’s Cove, urged the city to take Weaver’s Point by eminent domain. Todd Rego suggested moving the train tracks to the level of Davol Street so the waterfront would be more connected to the rest of the city. Patrick Norton from the Narrows Center for the Arts asked that the city do more to collect litter on waterfront streets and suggested getting the state to move its salt sheds from the waterfront to the site of the city’s former incinerator.

Kenney said he hoped to get the plan to the state by September to allow planning to start before the state finishes its plans for improvements to Route 79 from the Cove Restaurant to the new bridge carrying Route 6 to Somerset.

Ken Fiola, the executive vice president for the Fall River Office of Economic Development, noted that the last urban renewal plan for the waterfront called for the state to rebuild Route 79 to open up the area for commercial and recreational development.

“The urban renewal plans will set the course of development for the next 20 years,” he said. “The Route 79 plans emerged 20 years ago. We kept that initiative alive and we finally convinced this administration to fund it.

“It doesn’t happen fast, but sometimes, it does happen.”


The Herald News, Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - Page A1

Marketplace is shaping up
Ulta Beauty, other stores coming along quickly at center

By Kevin P. O’Connor
Email: [email protected]

Fall River - Ulta Beauty is preparing to open in the South Coast Marketplace.

The national company posted listings for four managers to work in a proposed store on William S. Canning Boulevard.

That is the address of the shopping center currently being developed by the CEA Group of Cambridge. That company bought the former New Harbour Mall, closed it and gutted it.

A plaza with more than two dozen stores and a Market Basket supermarket should be open by the end of this year, CEA officials say.

Ulta Beauty currently has 990 stores in 48 states. It sells makeup and personal care products for men and women and has a salon in each store.

The jobs posted on the Ulta Beauty website are for a general manager, an associate manager, a prestige manager and a salon manager.

The plaza it will be part of is coming together now. The 30-acre site on William S. Canning Boulevard changes appearance every day.

Exterior walls are complete on the Market Basket store at the far eastern end of the plaza. Heavy equipment has begun grading part of the parking lot at that end.

A facade is finished on two sections of the main plaza. Some interior walls are built in the area where early sketches showed a movie theater located.

In the parking lot, dump trucks, cranes, frontend loaders and fork lifts maneuver around storage trailers and piles of crushed stone.

At the far west end, the walls are still down. From the parking lot, you can see straight through the space that once held Walmart.

At its announcement in October 2015, CEA officials say the enclosed mall would be transformed into a string of 30,000- and 40,000-square-foot stores with entrances open to the parking lot.

The western end, which held the Walmart garden department, will host a string of smaller service shops like hair salons, dry cleaners, cobblers or tailors.

The company Picture Show has signed a lease to operate an 11-screen theater. The 110 Grill has committed to the site, as has the pet store, PetSmart.

Market Basket officials said they hope to open the store this summer. CEA officials say South Coast Marketplace should be open before the holidays.


The Herald News, Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - Page A1

Seven bids considered for next phase of Route 79

By Michael Holtzman
Email: [email protected]

Fall River - After three years of study on continuing the next corridor phase of the Davol Street and Route 79 improvements, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on Feb. 24 opened seven bid proposals of qualifications for 25 percent design of the estimated $68 million project. They announced the seven engineering firms on March 9 following a Herald News public records request. The estimated preliminary design cost is $3 million and awarding the contract is a period of six to 10 months.

When completed, the project would transform the elevated Route 79 into a four-lane urban boulevard at grade level — a modification from a sixlane alternative — recommended by the Federal Highway Administration that’s the principle funding source. The project scope is approximately one mile from the Cove Restaurant north to the Veterans Memorial Bridge and would create 10 acres of developable land for mixed-use projects accessing the Taunton River.

What’s New?
Today, a seven-member evaluation committee, headed by Ammie Rogers, MassDOT project manager, is convening its first meeting at 10 a.m. at the MassDOT District 5 office in Taunton. Along with other MassDOT officials, three committee members from the local area said Tuesday they have read and scored the proposals based upon points criteria MassDOT issued to them.

A general comment: The evaluation committee is meeting to review the seven proposals that were submitted. … I think it’s a good array to pick from. We had seven good proposals.” —William Kenney, Fall River planning director and committee member.

Kenney, Ken Fiola Jr. of the Fall River Office of Economic Development and Lisa Estrela-Pedro of the Southeastern Regional Economic Development District said in phone interviews they had scored the seven firms based upon the MassDOT design criteria format and were prepared to discuss those evaluations with the full committee.

They did not know if any decisions would be made.

The RFP shows a scoring system with “Part I” (30 percent of total scoring) for the design team, consultants, key personnel, project experience, understanding

the scope of services and several pass/fail criteria.

“Part II,” (70 percent of total scoring) would include 70 points for approach and methodology and 30 points for design controls. The committee would invite up to three of the bidders scoring the highest to make oral presentations that would assist the committee in its evaluations of these two parts.

The process
“There are no bid amounts. It is a qualifications- based selection process,” MassDOT General Counsel Maryellen Lyons wrote by email recently.

Submitting fee for design services: “MassDOT’s evaluation committee for this work will evaluate and rank all prospective consultants determined eligible for the contract to be awarded as a result of this request for proposal,” the RFP says. It also says: “The approved firm will be invited to submit a fee proposal.”

Confidential non-disclosure agreement
Evaluation committee members, Fiola, Kenney and Estrela-Pedro, signed one they confirmed when asked.

A general comment: “We all had to sign confidentiality agreements. It’s never happened to me on a public project. I’ve signed them a lot of times with private developers and clients (such as with the Amazon distribution center project),” Fiola said.

Any explanation given by MassDOT? “No. It just seemed to be a matter of standard practice and I submitted it to them,” Fiola said.


The Herald News, Friday, March 24, 2017 - Page A1

Amazon’s Fall River fulfillment center packed with hard-working employees

By Kevin P. O’Connor
Email: [email protected]

Fall River - Of all the wonders within the walls of Amazon - and there are many, general manager Andrew Sweatman said - the most amazing to him are two small machines at the center of the building.

Every package goes past them, whisked on a conveyor belt. The packages go first past a scanner that reads a bar code containing the customer’s name and address. The next machine, 10 feet away, prints and applies an address label.

But that’s not all.

“It works through an algorithm to figure out the quickest and cheapest shipping method,” Sweatman said.

The process takes just under three seconds.

Once that label is applied, the package is on its way from Fall River to you.

Amazon is holding a grand opening Friday of its newest large item fulfillment center, opened in October at 1080 Innovation way. At 1.3 million square feet of floor space, it is also, for the moment, the largest of the 70 fulfillment centers Amazon operates in the United States. One of the largest for Amazon in the world.

Gov. Charlie Baker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Joseph Kennedy III are among the invited guests for the tour. Sweatman conducted a rehearsal Thursday.

“We have 1,000 people working here right now,” Sweatman said. “But we just continue to grow.

“The 1,000 associates we have right now are full associates with full benefits.”

The facility opened in October after six months recruiting, interviewing and hiring personnel. The turnover, since work began, has been low, even by Amazon standards.

“We are much better than average,” Sweatman said. “It is all about culture.”

Which brings him to the second thing inside Amazon that amazes him: Sonotubes.

“The problem is, how do you store long, skinny items,” he said. “They fall off the pallets.

“We were walking through, trying to solve the problem, and someone said Sonotubes.” So there is space on the floor of the warehouse with the cardboard tubes that are designed to be used as concrete forms for deck footings. They are set upright, held in batches by plastic packing straps, and filled with paddles, curtain rods, mop handles, pole saws. “The workforce here has been amazing,” Sweatman said. “Our associates come in and they have assumed ownership.

“We’re all still learning.”

Amazon arrived in the city, building in the Southcoast Life Science and Technology Park, with the promise of 500 jobs moving large items, anything from the size of a sewing machine to a kayak or a couch. On Thursday, workers were emptying 20 tractor trailers, moving and sorting trash cans, dog food, cases of spring water, tires and bicycles. The building is a quarter of a mile long. It’s clean and quiet enough for conversation. There are traffic lanes for the parade of fork lifts that perpetually moved through the building. Even as the building was under construction plans for its use continued to change. A mezzanine floor over a third of the floor, halfway to the 40-foot ceiling. This is the first large package facility to have a mezzanine.

Managers were handed the keys to the building and told to figure it out.

Sonotubes was one solution. Pallet racks built for stores was another. When no racks could be found to hold the hundreds of bicycles that pass through the building every day, one manager found an empty space and marked it off as a bike lane. “Every square inch of this building is mapped,” Sweatman added. He pointed to a square on the floor that could be read by a scanner. “When you get a list of items, your computer will tell you where to go to get it and map out the most efficient route.”

The building is a testament to automation and human muscle. Packages move on conveyors, passing by at 8 miles per hour, going past scanners and readers until they are nudged by gentle, automatic hands into the back of the truck that will carry the item away. When packages get struck or crooked, workers with long boat hooks set them right. All around the facility, people are picking up packages and putting them on pallets, forklifts, into piles planned by computers.

There is a workshop where computers measure oddly shaped packages and cut and bend cardboard. Workers use their hands and tape guns to turn the cardboard into boxes.

“Our box assemblers are experts at the origami of packaging,” Sweatman said.

The building is at work for 20 hours a day, handling, in this slow time, a million items a week - 7,143 items an hour. The challenge, Sweatman said, is to operate as efficiently as possible while still being open to change and to learn from the people doing the work.

“One of the most exciting things about being in this building is trying to solve problems with the space we have,” he said. “Our associates do a great job of showing us how to do it. “It is working out well.”


The Herald News, Thursday, March 23, 2017 - Page A1

South Coast Rail work could start in 2019
5 years to build route to Middleboro

By Michael Holtzman
Email: [email protected]

Fall River - The Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced Wednesday its project change filing to upgrade the Middleboro/ Lakeville commuter line to initiate South Coast Rail service to Fall River and New Bedford.

Construction would begin in 2019 and take five years until 2024 to build - compared with 2030 estimated for the full project through Stoughton, according to MassDOT’s filing made public Wednesday afternoon.

“This will enable us to provide passenger rail to the South Coast region years sooner than would be the case if the project would be constructed at one time,” Transportation Secretary/ CEO Stephanie Pollack said in a written statement after delivering the message to South Coast legislators at noon Wednesday.

The concept is to use the existing line for “early-action service” in an initial phase and continue preliminary engineering design and permitting for an electric train route through Stoughton.

That’s long been the preferred commuter rail route to Boston, which is approximately 15 percent designed.

MassDOT one week ago on March 15 filed the Notice of Project Change with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office, as first reported by The Herald News on Tuesday. That begins a public comment period through April 21, the filing reported on MEPA’s biweekly Environmental Monitor says.

MEPA would have 10 days afterwards to act, officials said.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who a week ago met with area legislators and leaders about the Middleboro option favored by most, said in the media release, “Our administration is committed to providing the South Coast with commuter rail service as expeditiously and efficiently as possible.”

The Stoughton final phase - with an escalated $3.4 billion price tag last summer - would continue to advance while giving the region more limited commuter rail service years earlier, Baker also noted.

The project change summary filed with MEPA shows the vastly reduced impacts on track mileage work, acres of land for stations and wetlands altered. They include:

• Stoughton route: 16.4 miles new track, 35.5 miles upgraded; 95.3 acres of land altered, 6.1 acres of bordering vegetated wetlands altered.

• Middleboro secondary route: 7.6 miles track upgraded; 10 acres of land altered; 10,000 square feet (a quarter acre) bordering vegetated wetlands altered.

• Proposed new total combined: 16.4 miles new track, 43.1 miles upgraded track; 105.3 acres of land altered for stations; 6.35 acres bordering vegetated wetlands altered.

The number of annual trips estimated through Stoughton under the prior filing was 255,932, with the number for Middleboro to be determined. The total number of needed parking spaces would increase at least 500 from 3,467 to 3,967, says last week’s filing changes.

After MEPA has adopted the Middleboro secondary line and continues its review, MassDOT said it would advance work on the “Southern Triangle” from Cotley Junction in Taunton south through Berkley, Lakeville, Freetown, Fall River and New Bedford.

While the cost for a 7½mile easterly extension to Lakeville/Middleboro was not immediately available, it’s been estimated at a fraction of the Stoughton route.

“We’re developing budget estimates,” Patrick Marvin, a spokesman for MassDOT said. He said in an email significant cost reductions are due to savings on “infrastructure, fewer right-of-way requirements and the ability to utilize existing rolling stock rather than purchase all new rail equipment.”

State Sen. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, reacted enthusiastically over the announcement for the Fall River area and the region.

Under consideration is whether they can accommodate two or three sets of peak period morning and evening trains from both Fall River and New Bedford, Rodrigues said.

“I think the Middleboro alternative is a great idea. It’s much less expensive, gets service much quicker, and it doesn’t take the full-blown, long-term Stoughton route off the table,” Rodrigues said.

State Rep. Carole Fiola, D-Fall River, was also among about a dozen legislators who received Pollack’s briefing and reacted similarly.

“This is a very logical and anticipated and positive step in the process,” Fiola said.

She said it follows the public input process MassDOT initiated this summer and fall.

The two legislators said Sen. Marc Pacheco, DTaunton, at the briefing continued to speak out on the option that would remove Taunton’s downtown commuter rail station by its commercial sector in favor of a station in East Taunton.

“I’m very excited to see the governor and state committed to the route I’ve publicly supported,” Mayor Jasiel Correia II said. “I think it’s a route that’s realistic. I think the Stoughton route is more and more not realistic.”

Correia said after the public responses he expected Middleboro to proceed “because it’s a great alternative.”

The first phase would extend the existing Middleboro/Lakeville line via the Middleboro second line to provider quicker access and a less expensive option for service to and from Fall River and New Bedford, MassDOT said.

Rodrigues also related a fairly new second option Pollack shared with legislators going through Bridgewater. That choice involves whether to use the existing Lakeville/Middleboro station but needing to backtrack about one mile, and add time, from routes from the SouthCoast. The Stoughton route estimates 77 and 75 minutes to Boston from Fall River and New Beford, while the Middleboro secondary option has been estimated at upwards of 90 minutes.

Another new option briefly discussed, Rodrigues said, is to build a new Middleboro station north of the existing station, bypass it and go director to Bridgewater. That would eliminate plans to build a new train station north of Bridgewater, he said of the designs that require further review.

“I think it’s all really good news,” he said of prospects to begin providing at least limited commuter rail service as soon as possible.

State Rep. Bill Straus, D-Mattapoisett, chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, called the filing “a major advancement for getting the permits to bring early commuter rail service.”


The Herald News, Thursday, March 23, 2017 - Page A1

South Coast Marketplace takes shape as first tenants announced

By Kevin P. O’Connor
Email: [email protected]

Fall River - First is pork tenderloin with a sauteed apple topping. Then you settle into a reclining seat with a glass of merlot for the 114th episode of the Star Wars saga.

And don’t forget treats for Fido.

That is the picture being drawn for the South Coast Marketplace, the shopping center that is replacing the New Harbour Mall.

The CEA Group of Cambridge, the developers rebuilding the site, announced three more tenants to fill the two dozen stores in the center.

PetSmart has leased space as well as the 110 Grill and Picture Show, which will bring an 11 screen theater with reclining chairs, reserved seating, food options and a beer and wine bar.

“We consistently heard from Fall River residents that they wanted to bring the theater back,” said Steven Cohen, president of the CEA Group.

“We spoke to several national theater companies that were interested in opening in this location, but we were most impressed with the Picture Show team.”

The 110 Grill describes itself as “modern American cuisine.” The first restaurant opened in 2014 in Chelmsford. Since then it has opened seven restaurants in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with two more opening soon in Haverhill and Braintree. Those stores will join Market Basket, which is building an 85,000 square foot grocery store at the east end of the plaza where Kmart once stood. The CEA Group announced in October of 2015 that it would gut the New Harbour Mall, a 270,000 square foot enclosed mall built in 1971.

The new plaza would have stores with doors into the parking lot as well as restaurants around a courtyard near the entrance to the movie theater.

The 110 Grill has its menu online. It includes sandwiches, seafood, pasta, salads and full meals. The restaurant will have an outdoor patio with a firepit and private dining rooms, according to the CEA Group.

Market Basket should be the first business to open. That store is expected to be in business by August.

“The CEA Group will announce more tenants every five to six weeks as they get their agreements finalized,” said Ken Fiola, executive vice president of the Fall River Office of Economic Development. FROED acted as the city’s agent in negotiations with the CEA Group and in shepherding through the tax breaks the company won for the project.

“There are a handful of tenants signing on,” Fiola said. “We expect a number of recognized companies to be announced.”

SouthCoast Marketplace expects to be open before the holidays this year. Most of the site work should be complete by the time Market Basket opens, Fiola said.

Market Basket has been a magnet for the project, according to Ron Golub, a partner at the CEA Group.

“Since the announcement of their commitment to the project in 2015, numerous retailers and restaurants have expressed interest in being part of SouthCoast Marketplace. This 350,000 quare-foot project has tenant commitments for over 75 percent of its space already.”

PetSmart will claim 22,000 square feet of that space. Pet food and supplies will be on sale along with a grooming salon, dog training, day care and a PetsHotel. In its announcement in 2015, CEA officials said other developments of this size include several restaurants, a fitness center and a place for smaller service businesses like dry cleaners, hair salons or tailors. More stores will be announced in the next few months, company officials said.

The Herald News, Friday, February 24, 2017 - Page A1MODERN CLASSICCommonwealth Landing units reflect old mill’s historyB...

The Herald News, Friday, February 24, 2017 - Page A1

Commonwealth Landing units reflect old mill’s history

By Kevin P. O’Connor
Email: [email protected]

Fall River - The Fall River of the future shares a lot of pieces with Fall River of the past.

Lots of brick and granite, busy mills, a distinct turn toward the water.

But in the city of the future, those pieces have been rearranged a bit, according to developer Anthony Cordeiro.

The first completed model apartment at the Commonwealth Landing is a case in point.

The office is open, leasing has started, seven of the 103 apartments have been claimed in the renovation of Commonwealth Landing, 1082 Davol Street, that was a mill complex until Quaker Fabric Corp. left town in 2007.

Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar and Grill, Clique Lounge, Brian Fox Studios as well as offices, classrooms, a salon and an exercise facility fill the lower floors.

The top three floors will be one-, two- and threebedroom market rate apartments.

These are not your grandfather’s apartments.

In the model unit, an 8-foot door opens into an 805-square-foot one-bedroom apartment. You see an exposed brick wall immediately and the tall arched windows that show views of the Taunton River.

There are blond pine floors, granite counters in the kitchen and bathroom, high-end washers and driers, elevators, fitness rooms and community rooms dedicated to tenants.

The ceilings are open to the original oak and pine ceilings, 12 feet high, that were installed for the fabric mill. Outside the apartment, drywall hangers and electricians were busy. The hallways were filled with the rattle and thump of construction. Inside, that sound disappeared.

“We spent an extra threequarters of a million dollars to make sure each unit was insulated properly so you can’t hear your neighbors when you get home from work,” Cordeiro said. “During every tour I’ve given, construction was going on,” said Margaret Farrell, the leasing manager. “When you get into the apartment, you just don’t hear it.”

Farrell began signing leases a week ago for apartments that will be available starting on August 1.

“We have seven approved leases right now,” she said. “I’ll have 10 percent of the apartments leased by the end of February.”

Cordeiro purchased the property in 2010 with his partners, Larry Couto and Alan Macomber. That team oversaw the renovation of the site. The apartments will complete it.

At the start of the project the three developers said the complex would anchor the city’s waterfront and give the city an idea of what its future can be.

That is still true, Cordeiro said.

“Our whole dream was to see if Fall River can attract the clientele, the millennials and empty-nesters, to come here to live and play,” Cordeiro said.

“This has finally happened. It took a long time, but we never faltered.”


The Herald News, Thursday, February 2, 2017 - Page B1

Email suggests state will pick Middleboro route for South Coast Rail

By Andy Metzger
State House News Service

Boston - According to an email that the state’s transportation secretary said had been sent in error, the initial phase of a longsought train project would bring commuter rail to Fall River and New Bedford via Middleborough. The email appeared to settle debate over the path trains should take to supply passenger service to coastal areas along the Taunton River and Buzzards Bay.

The South Coast Rail project hit another stumbling block last summer when state officials announced its projected cost had soared by more than $1 billion to $3.4 billion if built along the route preferred by the Patrick administration running through Stoughton and the protected Hockomock Swamp.

When the cost overrun was announced, Gov. Charlie Baker’s Massachusetts Department of Transportation began weighing whether to switch routes to an alternative that runs through Middleborough, which would add travel time from Fall River and New Bedford but could be completed faster and at less cost.

An email from MassDOT’s legislative director to legislative aides on Tuesday stated phase one of the project would run through Middleborough, but Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the email was mistaken.

“No final decision has been made about what the first phase of South Coast Rail will look like,” Pollack said in a phone call from an airplane after a visit to Washington D.C. on Tuesday. She said, “The email was sent in error and does not accurately reflect the current status of the project.”

The email said that MassDOT believes the project should be implemented in stages, with phase one including a new Middleborough Station — which would be near the existing Lakeville station — and stations in East Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford. “Phase 1 will extend MBTA commuter rail service on the Lakeville line to New Bedford and Fall River, along the Middleborough Secondary from [Pilgrim] Junction (Middleborough) to the terminal stations at Whale’s Tooth and Fall River Depot, providing a one-seat ride,” the email states. Service would include two peak-period diesel trains to Fall River and New Bedford, according to the email. Construction of additional stations — Freetown, Kings Highway in New Bedford and Battleship Cove in Fall River — would be deferred, according to the email.

The email was sent by MassDOT legislative director Michael Berry. On Tuesday evening, James Eng, MassDOT’s deputy administrator for rail, wrote a follow-up email, according to MassDOT, calling the earlier email “factually inaccurate” while advising that if the “Middleboro option would mean South Coast service sooner and more cost effectively, we would be interested in exploring it further.” Rep. William Straus, a Mattapoisett Democrat whose district includes part of New Bedford, said he was “very happy” to see MassDOT’s approach as laid out in Berry’s email, an outlook not shared by those who want to see a proposed commuter rail stop near downtown Taunton. “I’m very disappointed that this email even went out,” Sen. Marc Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat, told the News Service. He said, “I’ve been disappointed with the way the whole procedure has unfolded.”

Straus is House chairman of the Transportation Committee, which is currently a temporary committee before committee assignments have been made for the session, and Pacheco holds considerable sway in the Senate, having held the position of Senate president pro tem last session.

In 2013, the Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the route Pacheco still prefers, electrifying the line and bringing it from Stoughton through Taunton to points south. Pacheco said there have not yet been updated ridership estimates, and argued the Stoughton route would offer better environmental benefits, higher ridership, and a shorter ride into Boston for residents of Fall River and New Bedford.

Straus said the Middleborough route would be much less expensive, could be completed in two to three construction seasons after it receives permits and would follow existing track.

“You could do this for somewhere in the area of $1 billion — a significant reduction,” Straus said. He said, “South Coast Rail would start by using track and right of way that the Commonwealth already owns and is already 100 percent in use for trains.”

Pollack said there is no “final information” about the cost or timeframe for pursuing the Middleborough route. The transportation secretary said she and others want to make a decision on which route to pursue “in the early part of this year.”

Another wrinkle to the Middleborough option is that Middleborough-Lakeville, which is now the end of a commuter rail line, already has a station. The existing station in Lakeville, which is not situated along the route to Fall River and New Bedford, also has a housing complex next to it.

“They’ll be pretty livid that that’s not the station,” Pacheco said.

Straus said the existing station is only a quarter mile from the site of the proposed new station, and a shuttle or walking path could be built along the rail-bed to the new station. Straus also said the vast majority of people who use Middleborough-Lakeville drive to the station.

Calling the project a “generational investment,” Pacheco said special care should be taken and that he has spoken with Pollack and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito about it.

“I’m taking the secretary and her office and the lieutenant governor at their word that they haven’t finalized anything,” Pacheco said.

Gov. Charlie Baker and his transportation team have repeatedly said they are focused primarily on improving service on the core MBTA system.


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