The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's (MassDOT) South Coast Rail proposal to establish passenger rail service between Boston and the cities of New Bedford and Fall River, Mass.
The FEIS was prepared in cooperation with the commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve as a joint FEIS/Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) pursuant to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA).
MassDOT is seeking a Corps permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act to perform work in navigable waters and discharge fill material in waters of the U. S., including wetlands, incidental to establishment of passenger rail service between Boston and New Bedford and Fall River. Because the proposal constitutes a potentially significant environmental impact, the Corps determined that a Federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The joint EIS/EIR allowed the MEPA review to be conducted simultaneously with the federal NEPA process. It evaluated a range of alternative transportation routes, including three principal rail routes, one bus route and a no-build alternative.
Work is proposed in U.S. waters, including adjacent wetlands, along existing active and out-of-service railroad corridors between Boston and New Bedford/Fall River. The proposal now under active review by the Corps would result in permanent loss of approximately 12.3 acres of waters of the U.S. (including wetlands) and follows (roughly, north to south) the existing Stoughton Commuter Rail Line from Boston to Stoughton Station; an existing rail line that has been out of service since 1958 from Stoughton to MA Route 138 (Broadway Avenue) in Raynham; an existing rail line that has been out of service since 1916 from MA Route 138 (Broadway Avenue) to Longmeadow Road in Taunton and existing, active freight lines, from Longmeadow Road to New Bedford and from Myricks Junction (Berkley) to Fall River.
The EIS/EIR evaluates several transportation facilities and corridor alternatives to implement the proposed transit service over a distance of about 50 to 60 miles. Transportation modes considered included rail (diesel or electric) and rapid bus.
Corridors considered included a rail corridor through Attleboro, Stoughton or Middleborough or a rapid bus service along MA-24, MA-140 and I-93. MassDOT’s preferred alternative is the Stoughton commuter rail alternative, which involves using the active freight lines from New Bedford and Fall River to Taunton, then using the inactive rail bed north to Stoughton, then using the active commuter rail tracks to South Station in Boston.
A Record of Decision (ROD), not less than 30 days after the FEIS/FEIR is released, will need to be completed prior to a permit decision by the Corps.