Freight service in Massachusetts has been expanding and is expected to grow significantly over the coming years. This is especially true in the South Coast region, where major roadway connections are limited and overburdened. Freight connections that serve the port areas need to be improved to accommodate future growth in harbor and waterfront areas as well as industrial and business parks. Because these freight rail lines will one day carry commuter trains – from South Station to Fall River and New Bedford – MassDOT advanced substantial track repairs and upgrades. In the short term, the region will benefit from expanded freight capacity; in the longer term, the improvements will benefit future passenger service.
MassDOT's freight improvements will enhance operations and allow for increased speeds along the Fall River and New Bedford freight lines. Faster and more reliable service will make freight rail an efficient, viable transportation option for many businesses located in the region. Businesses outside of Southeastern Massachusetts will also be more likely to use rail to ship merchandise and commodities.
The rail improvement project began in 2014 and is nearly complete. Contractors have installed roughly 46,500 new cross ties, 270 new switch timbers, 34,000 tons of new stone ballast and 40,000 new rail anchors. Approximately 5,000 tons of old and worn scrap ties, timber and other wood debris were picked up and safely disposed. MassDOT's contractor will next surface 370,000 feet or track to remove imperfections and high spots on the rails.
MassDOT has also upgraded ten grade crossings in the Southern Triangle (including portions of Lakeville, Freetown, Fall River and New Bedford) in an effort to prepare the region for commuter rail service.