Building on his call for renewed investments in transportation and education in last week's State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Deval Patrick today joined state and local leaders in New Bedford to highlight the Administration's commitment to South Coast Rail as a key component of an investment plan to grow jobs and expand economic opportunity.
The Governor's plan includes the completion of the South Coast Rail Line with diesel-fueled commuter trains to connect Boston to Fall River and New Bedford. The $1.8 billion investment is expected to create 3,800 jobs and generate $500 million in new economic activity statewide annually. The plan includes a $1 billion annual investment in the Commonwealth's transportation system to maintain the current transportation assets we have today and launch a number of high-impact transportation projects across Massachusetts that, if built, will create thousands of jobs and spur economic development across the Commonwealth.
"Opportunity is too important to leave to chance, but opportunity requires growth and growth requires investment. We have made a commitment to bring commuter rail to the South Coast because we know this will unlock new economic development opportunities while delivering a reliable transit choice for commuters, with huge environmental benefits," said Governor Patrick. "Working with our partners in the legislature, business community and cities and towns, we will invest in education, innovation and infrastructure to create a stronger Commonwealth for this generation, and the next."
"Massachusetts deserves a statewide transportation system that serves people and businesses in all regions of the state," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "For far too long, the South Coast region has been overlooked and underserved, but Governor Patrick and this Administration stand committed to expanding commuter rail to communities along the South Coast. With this critical investment, we will increase access for people and businesses, spurring community and economic development and supporting growth and opportunity for this region and the Commonwealth."
"MassDOT heard from thousands of citizens as we prepared our comprehensive transportation plan, "The Way Forward,' and the message was clear in this region and all across the Commonwealth -- people want more transportation, not less," said MassDOT Secretary & Chief Executive Officer Richard A. Davey. "South Coast Rail, when combined with other strategic investments to maintain the regional transportation system, will help the South Coast continue to grow for decades to come."
In addition to the transportation investments announced by the Governor last week, the Governor also called for a $550 million investment in education, reaching $1 billion over four years, to expand access to high quality educational opportunities and make higher education more affordable for all students in Massachusetts. This historic investment would provide access to high quality early education for the nearly 4,200 children in Southeastern MA on the Department of Early Education and Care's (EEC) waitlist; allow additional resources for high-need schools in Fall River, New Bedford and the surrounding communities to extend learning time for students; make higher education more affordable for thousands of students attending colleges and universities in Southeastern MA; and allow our community colleges like Bristol Community College to expand successful programs that are preparing students for success in the workplace.
"We have the tools in place to help all of our students achieve at high levels," said Education Secretary Matt Malone. "These investments will fuel our continued efforts to build a 21st century public education system in Massachusetts that prepares all students to compete and succeed in the global marketplace."
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.
The Patrick-Murray Administration's transportation investments in the future of the South Coast region also include the Accelerated Bridge Program "mega" project to rebuild the I-195, Route 79 and Route 138 intersection in Fall River along with improvements to Route 18 and other state roadways, and local road and bridge projects funded by Chapter 90. A total of 245 investments by five state agencies totaling $939 million have been made 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.
"At the moment, we have a Governor and a Legislative delegation fully supportive of South Coast Rail. The time is now to act on that alignment and bring this very important, regionally-critical project to fruition. I thank the Governor not just for myself but also for the future generations that will undoubtedly benefit from his foresight."
- Congressman Ed Markey
"South Coast Rail will deliver a much-needed economic link to cities and towns across Southeastern Massachusetts," said Congressman Kennedy. "Cities like Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford are ripe with economic development potential. Upgrading our transportation system to meet the needs of local businesses and families will not just drive growth but will ensure some basic economic fairness. I applaud Governor Patrick's commitment to the issue and look forward to working with him, as well as the tremendous local elected officials on the ground, towards continued progress."
- Congressman Joe Kennedy
"The priorities Governor Patrick has laid out over the past several days shows what a true friend he is to the South Coast Region. The need for transportation investment in our region is foremost, and the Governor's unprecedented level of commitment to South Coast Rail is recognition that he understands exactly what we as a region need to succeed. His clean energy vision and his support for the City's efforts to become the birthplace of offshore wind energy are also demonstrations of his appreciation for our potential as a city and region. Lastly, his focus on education is exactly what the City needs to help turn around its public school system and raise the skill level of our workforce."
- Mayor Jon Mitchell, New Bedford
"We are excited about the economic opportunity the South Coast Rail will offer our community and residents. The project will also provide the stimulus to develop our Transit Oriented Districts, which were formally rail stations that have been dormant for over 50 years."
- Mayor Thomas C. Hoye, Taunton
"Investing in South Coast Rail will unlock economic opportunity for our region and greatly improve the quality of our life. It is vitally important that our Legislature adopt a transportation bill that includes the funding for South Coast Rail connecting Boston to our region. From Fall River, to Taunton, to New Bedford it is essential for our elected leaders to invest in and provide the transportation that is required to move Southeastern Massachusetts forward."
- Mayor Will Flanagan, Fall River
"South Coast Rail is a transformative project for New Bedford and the surrounding communities that will have a powerful impact on the economy of the city and the economic opportunities for its citizens by creating thousands of jobs and making the south coast a destination both to live and to locate your business. I look forward to continuing to work with the Patrick-Murray Administration to make this vital project a reality."
- Senator Antonio F.D. Cabral
"It is heartening to see the Administration's continued commitment to ensuring that the SouthCoast receives the transportation investment that other areas of the Commonwealth have enjoyed for years. SouthCoast rail and continued road improvement not only will ensure economic development in our area but throughout the entire state as an interconnected modern transportation network is needed to keep Massachusetts competitive in this ever increasing global economy. Thus, the issue of SouthCoast transportation infrastructure is not only one of fairness to the communities of SouthCoast but also in the best interest of the entire State. Much work has been done but much more remains. I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor to bring SouthCoast rail and other transportation improvements to fruition."
- Senator Mark Montigny
"South Coast rail is vital to the economy of our region. I am pleased that the Governor has prioritized this project."
- Representative Robert Koczera
"I commend the Governor and his administration's hard work on SouthCoast Rail especially with the identification of a funding source. SouthCoast Rail will connect citizens to the economic growth of Boston, providing many with new job opportunities and overall economic development. Governor Patrick's administration has done more to advance SouthCoast Rail than any other administration in recent history."
- Representative Paul Schmid