South

MBTA could extend commuter rail to Gillette Stadium

The MBTA is planning to start commuter rail express service to Foxborough, officials announced Tuesday, using a freight line that the state expects to purchase by the end of November.

The proposed weekday service would run trains from South Station on the existing Fairmount Line, which extends through Boston neighborhoods, to Readville on the Franklin Line and then nonstop to Foxborough. In Walpole, the express trains would link to Foxborough using tracks now owned by CSX Corp., according to David Mohler, director of planning for the state Department of Transportation.

In June, the Department of Transportation governing board voted to buy the freight line, called the Framingham Secondary, which runs from Framingham south to Mansfield and passes through several towns, including Sherborn, Medfield, Walpole, and Foxborough, Mohler said. Those tracks would allow the state to connect the T’s Worcester, Franklin, and Providence commuter lines, he said, and has value even if the state does not extend service to Foxborough. He said the cost to acquire the freight line will be about $23 million.

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Initially, the proposed Foxborough service would be five times a day on weekdays, including two peak trips in the morning and two in the afternoon. The station is an existing platform near Gillette Stadium. Parking would be in a stadium lot under an agreement that is being negotiated with the Kraft Group, Mohler said. The state began talks with the Kraft Group, which owns the New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium, in January, he said.

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The first public discussion of the proposed commuter rail expansion, made Tuesday in a meeting with Foxborough selectmen, drew a mixed reaction from elected officials and residents. Several Foxborough selectmen criticized the state for delaying its discussions with the town officials and residents.

“Why would you approach this without approaching the towns most impacted by this first?” asked Selectman John Gray. “Why was this done quietly and without our participation?”

Mohler acknowledged the state should have reached out to the towns. “It is clear we did this poorly,” he said. But he added it is not unusual for the state to speak with the private land owner first. He later added that town approval is not required for the Department of Transportation and MBTA to act.

Under the preliminary agreement, he said, the Kraft Group would operate the parking area and collect fees for parking. Mohler said he could not estimate when the service might be available, but said it would be at least another year.

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Stephanie McGowan, a Foxborough resident, was among those in the audience who urged selectmen to support the plan.

“You’d be surprised at the number of people who would use that train,” she said. “That [drive] into Boston is terrible.”

MBTA and Department of Transportation officials will meet with Walpole selectmen on Dec. 2.

Mary MacDonald can be reached at maryfmacdonald3 @gmail.com.