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Corps of Engineers releases final environmental statement on Massachusetts' South Coast Rail project

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has adopted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) as its Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the South Coast Rail project. The department also has identified the Stoughton rail alternative as its preferred route, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced yesterday.

The FEIS/FEIR released yesterday is the culmination of more than five years of coordination between Patrick's administration, the Corps and 17 other state and federal agencies, the governor said in a prepared statement.

"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," Patrick said. "We are making it happen."

In the FEIS, the Corps concluded that there is no practicable alternative to the Stoughton Electric Alternative with less environmental impact. It noted 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, Patrick administration officials said.

"South Coast Rail will connect the cities of Taunton, New Bedford and Fall River to Boston, and position the South Coast region for smart growth and sustainability," said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard Davey.

As part of the environmental review process, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office will accept public comments on the FEIS/FEIR until Oct. 26. MassDOT will hold two public open houses to provide information on the FEIR. The MEPA review process will end after the secretary of environmental affairs issues a final certificate. The federal process will conclude with the Corps issuance of a record of decision.

To date, South Coast Rail investments have included the rebuilding of three New Bedford rail bridges, funded by a $20 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant. The project enhanced  freight-rail service 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, which will be necessary for South Coast Rail operations, state officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/24/2013