Selectmen support bringing commuter rail to Wareham

By Matthew Bernat | May 02, 2017

Selectmen are on board with a Massachusetts Department of Transportation plan that makes a commuter stop in Wareham a possibility. However, Selectman Alan Slavin cautioned that the $1 billion project is complicated and reaching a consensus among stakeholders is a tricky proposition.

Slavin, who is known as the board’s transportation guru, lamented the fact that the project splintered from a singular vision to one with several options. Frequent changes are making the project difficult to track, let alone settle on one option to support, he said.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen, and I’m closer to this than anybody,” said Slavin. “Every time you turn around, they change something.”

Slavin added that the plan the board supports doesn’t mean train service is coming to town, even if it’s adopted.

“There’s nothing in there that guarantees Wareham gets a train at all,” he said.

Despite those misgivings, board members on Tuesday unanimously supported the Department of Transportation’s “alternative number two plan.” If adopted, that plan makes Wareham tracks, which are already well-maintained and used seasonally by the CapeFlyer, an attractive option for extending service to Hyannis.

Now, the state is assessing the benefits of extending the commuter rail shuttle south into Buzzards Bay. The extension would use the current CapeFlyer tracks, but would run full-time, bringing daily Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority service to Wareham, and Buzzards Bay before terminating in Hyannis.

The assessment comes as part of state’s attempt to bring commuter rail accessibility into New Bedford. State officials are still moving forward with plans to construct a rail line to Stoughton, ending in Fall River.

However, the Stoughton line requires several new stations to be built in Raynham, Easton, Taunton, Freetown New Bedford among others. The line also extends through the Hockomock Swamp, which has raised concerns with environmentalists.

Selectmen Chair Peter Teitelbaum echoed those concerns on Tuesday, saying that, from an environmental standpoint, building new isn’t the best option. It’s better to use existing infrastructure, he said.

The board-backed option proposes using the already-in-use Middleboro/Lakeville line to connect to New Bedford and Fall River.

The proposal offers two options for the Middleboro/Lakeville station. The first is to construct a new Middleboro station at Pilgrim Junction, which would connect to the Middleboro freight line heading into Cotley Junction in Taunton, and then along the freight lines into New Bedford and Fall River.

The second option is to use the current Lakeville station as a commuter shuttle, bringing passengers to Bridgewater. There they could make a cross-platform transfer to a new line, which would extend south to New Bedford and Fall River.

While the second option doesn’t explicitly make use of Wareham tracks, having commuter service running through Lakeville might make it more attractive for officials to start running daily trains to Cape Cod. Local leaders are hopeful that making a Wareham stop would then be an easy sell to the state.

With the project’s future unclear, Slavin said plans could change. Teitelbaum noted if that’s the case, the board could always withdraw its support, or throw it behind a new option in the future.

Comments (9)
Posted by: Warehamlifer | May 06, 2017 08:45

Please Slavin don't do Wareham an injustice and bring the commuter train here,keep it the way it is,if you can afford a car you can drive here.



Posted by: JollyRoger | May 07, 2017 12:32

Please selectman Slavin, do Wareham a justice and continue pushing for commuter rail service here.  Thanks for your efforts!



Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 08, 2017 12:52

Selectman Slavin's efforts in behalf of commuter rail service being extended to Wareham and the degree to which selectmen have supported his efforts should be applauded. Commuter service would attract more people from surrounding towns to Wareham, not just park at a commuter rail stop, but also to support Wareham businesses as they do on-the-way home errands, or stop at the end of a workday to enjoy a restaurant meal. It would also encourage those who would love to live here year round, but don't want the daily heavy-traffic drive to Boston, to move to Wareham, in the process, appreciating, purchasing and updating, where needed, available housing, or purchasing newly constructed housing. New housing and renovated housing would help improve Wareham's tax base. In general, the increased support to local business from both commuters and new residents, the increase in year round residents and their investment into properties would attract new businesses and further increase the tax base.

 

If in doubt ask someone who has lived in Middleboro long enough to see the difference between property values, businesses development, and local tax base before and after the arrival of commuter rail.

 



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 08, 2017 13:41

Andrea, I agree that it would bring people into the town to shop, etc, but once they are here, how do they get to any of the stores and restaurants that they want to get to?  There is very little on Main Street to keep them coming here.  Sure, there are restaurants, but really little else.  We would need a shuttle service to the mall or to the remaining East Wareham stores.  A nice shuttle.  Not GATRA.

 

It may do the other things you have mentioned though.  Bringing families here and building the tax base would be (could be if managed correctly) a good thing.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 08, 2017 17:45

wanttoseechange - If someone drives into Wareham from another community (Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester, to mention a few) to park at a commuter rail parking lot in order to commute to Boston for work several days a week, they will be able to drive to any location in Wareham with the same car on the way to the station or on the way home. Past articles have indicated Tobey Road the likely location for a commuter rail parking lot. There are plenty of retail businesses and restaurants in the Tobey Road area, and plenty of opportunities driving home through Wareham to other communities to pass retail businesses and restaurants along the way.



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 08, 2017 20:16

Andrea - Ok, I see what you mean in that case.  I was thinking of people coming IN on the train and then having little to choose from on Main Street.

 

Why would there be a commuter rail parking lot on Tobey Road when the "station" is on Main Street, I wonder?  How would the people get from their car to the train and back?



Posted by: Steve Holmes | May 09, 2017 07:54

The train stop is a whole other issue.the town currently owns one of the largest parking lots in town, Tremont nail. With a quick bite at town meeting it becomes a potential site. And a well managed overnight parking area will attract enough folks to keep it filled. Tracks run right by it, and we have several buildings for shops etc.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 09, 2017 11:02

Wanttoseechange – The railroad tracks which are used by the Cape Flyer and which would be used for commuter trains abut an available parcel of land on Tobey Road large enough to accommodate any need for expansion of parking lot capacity that might occur in future years. Tobey Road is located in an area which offers quick access to Routes 28, 195, and 495; which would be a plus for those driving into Wareham from other communities for the purpose of riding a commuter train. Because of the recent construction of Wareham Crossing Mall and Walmart, the road system in the area has recently been updated and reconfigured to accommodate heavy traffic flow, so that cost of traffic flow accommodation in the Tobey Road area would be minimal as compared to cost of traffic flow accommodation in other areas which have not already been reconfigured for heavy traffic flow.

Also the close proximity of a Tobey Road commuter rail stop to Wareham Crossing Mall, Walmart, and additional retail development currently under construction would all likely be viewed by decision makers as attractions that would generate day trip ridership (additional ticket sale revenue) into Wareham for the purpose of shopping.

The quote below from a February 4, 2014, Wareham Week article titled “Commuter rail: Next stop Wareham?” indicates Tobey Road to be the likely location for a commuter rail station/parking lot:

“The location that makes the most sense is property by Wareham Crossing,” State Representative Susan Williams Gifford said.

She said the size of the property and its proximity to highways make it a good choice for a station that would likely see commuters from Carver, Rochester, Marion and Mattapoisett. With the likelihood of a Buzzards Bay commuter rail stop, Gifford said the Wareham station has to be a suitable distance from that.

Over the years, the old Ocean Spray building and the Tremont Nail Factory were both brought up as possible locations, but both possessed a slew of problems, not the least of which being their close proximity to the Buzzards Bay station.”

http://wareham-ma.villagesoup.com/p/commuter-rail-next-stop-wareham/1110958



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 09, 2017 15:58

Andrea - Great explanation.  Thanks.  That makes much more sense to me.  I agree that as long as there are tracks in the Tobey Road area, that would be a much better place for the train to stop.  It works for so many different reasons.  Now if they would just fix Tobey Road.  What a mess!  That is a topic for a different day though I suppose.



If you wish to comment, please login.