New Bedford - Governor Deval Patrick will today join MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey to announce that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the South Coast Rail project, and MassDOT has adopted the Corps’ document as the state-required Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR). MassDOT has identified the Stoughton rail alternative as its preferred route for providing the best transportation, environmental and smart growth benefits.
The FEIS/FEIR released today is the culmination of more than five years of coordination among the Patrick Administration, the Corps and 17 other state and federal agencies.
“Residents of the South Coast have been waiting for 20 years for a reliable transit system that connects conveniently to Boston and everything in between,” said Governor Patrick. “We are making it happen, and we thank the Army Corps of Engineers and MassDOT for moving us so far forward.”
“South Coast Rail will reconnect the cities of Taunton, New Bedford and Fall River to Boston and position the South Coast region for smart growth and sustainability,” said Secretary Davey. “Completing the final environmental document is a critical step forward in obtaining the environmental clearances MassDOT and the MBTA need to bring long-awaited commuter rail service to the South Coast.”
The FEIS/FEIR outlines the Corps’ conclusion that there is no practicable alternative to the Stoughton Electric Alternative with less environmental impact, and notes that MassDOT has complied with the requirements of a Certificate issued by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs on the draft document and confirms the agency’s choice of the Stoughton route.
As part of the environmental review process, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office (MEPA) will accept public comments on the FEIS/FEIR until October 26, 2013. MassDOT is sponsoring two public Open Houses to provide information on the FEIR. The MEPA review process will end once the Secretary of Environmental Affairs issues a Final Certificate, which will include any additional requirements for mitigation or avoidance of impacts. The federal NEPA process will conclude with the issuance of a Record of Decision (ROD) by the Corps.
Governor Patrick has remained committed to expanding transportation options on the South Coast in order to grow jobs and economic opportunity in the region.
Investments supporting South Coast Rail to date include the completed rebuilding of three New Bedford rail bridges, funded by a $20 million federal TIGER grant that enhances current freight rail and will serve commuter rail, along with the completion of a historic agreement with CSX Transportation to purchase 30 miles of track from Taunton to Fall River and New Bedford necessary for South Coast Rail.
The South Coast Rail Economic Development and Land Use Corridor Plan, developed in 2009, has made strategic investments to assist the 31 corridor communities in preparing for passenger rail through sustainable development and appropriate land use. The Plan identifies areas that are appropriate for new development near proposed South Coast Rail transit stations. The fifth round of technical assistance announced in October 2012 provided grants to 15 Corridor communities of $5,000 - $25,000 to plan for sustainable, smart growth; a sixth round will be announced shortly.
The Patrick Administration has continuously supported the transportation infrastructure on the South Coast including the Accelerated Bridge Program “mega” project to rebuild the I-195, Route 79 and Route 138 interchange in Fall River along with improvements to Route 18 and other state roadways, and local road and bridge projects funded by Chapter 90. The Patrick Administration has made 245 investments totaling $939 million in the region, including $11.7 million in 2011 and 2012 MassWorks infrastructure program grants to five communities in the region, among them a grant of $3.25 million to New Bedford for improvements in the city’s Acushnet Avenue International Marketplace area.
The FEIS/FEIR details the transportation benefits of the Stoughton Alternative and its potential impacts on noise, visual, wetlands, environmental justice, air quality and other social, historic and environmental resources. It advances designs of the tracks, stations and layover facilities over the draft document, and estimates wetland impacts and describes measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate such impacts. MassDOT has proposed a plan and monitoring component to assess smart growth implementation.
Once the state environmental review process is completed, MassDOT can invest in developing the final design plans for the project and can begin to obtain all of the required permits. The MBTA will assume a primary role in final design.
The FEIS/FEIR is available at local libraries throughout the South Coast region and by request from MassDOT. There is a link to the electronic version of the report, an Executive Summary, Guide to the FEIS/FEIR and a project fact sheet at www.mass.gov/southcoastrail. Information on the Open Houses and how to comment on the FEIS/FEIR is also posted on the website.