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Should the MBTA proceed with a pilot plan for daily commuter rail service to Gillette Stadium?

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New England Patriots fans boarding a commuter rail “special events” train from Mansfield to Foxborough.
New England Patriots fans boarding a commuter rail “special events” train from Mansfield to Foxborough.(Rose Lincoln for the Boston Globe)

YES

Kara Griffin

Executive director, Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce

Kara Griffin.
Kara Griffin.(Handout)

My organization, the Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce -- which represents 350 businesses across Foxborough, Mansfield, and Norton -- strongly supports the pilot program to offer daily commuter rail service to Foxboro Station at Gillette Stadium for important economic development reasons.

The pilot program will send a clear signal to businesses that the Tri-Town area welcomes industry and innovation. Having additional rail line access in Foxborough will help to bring the talent and resources to businesses that are considering this region or have plans to expand. Transportation and infrastructure continue to be high priorities. Our membership includes major corporations, such as Schneider Electric, Medtronic, and Patriot Place, which have indicated that increasing the available employee pool by providing greater accessibility to our area through this Foxborough rail stop to Boston is essential for their continued success.

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There is huge potential for growth in Foxborough, Mansfield, and Norton, and employment in the area abounds. Foxborough has already identified its own "Growth Node" along the Route 1 corridor, with more than 840 undeveloped acres. Mansfield has an expansive business park to sustain, and Norton has recently found great success in attracting businesses such as Alnylam and New England Ice Cream. As the executive director of the Tri-Town Chamber, I want to see this momentum and success continue, and the proposed expansion of commuter rail service is a great way to help make that happen.

Foxborough's own residents acknowledge the need for this expanded rail service: In a town survey, 66 percent of them supported bringing rail service to town. Even our smaller business members favor this initiative as they realize the benefit to retail, service, and educational constituencies.

Our chamber firmly believes that the commuter rail pilot program will offer economic advantages to residents, employers, and employees alike far beyond the Foxborough and the Tri-Town region. We believe that this plan is a worthwhile investment that will not only help keep major employers located in this area but also help to attract new ones.

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This pilot program aligns with the Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce's mission to improve the economic well-being of the area and thereby improve the quality of life in our communities.

NO

James E. Timilty

State senator, Walpole Democrat

James E. Timilty.
James E. Timilty.(Handout)

With the New Year upon us, we can only hope we don't see the likes of the winter of '15 in the next few months. But if you are reading this waiting for a commuter rail train, you know that it wasn't just that winter that saw delays and cancellations. Using commuter rail is hardly ever easy, no matter the season. Interruptions in service, unfortunately, have become routine.

The area surrounding the proposed permanent Foxborough station is not an underserved region. It is within a 20-minute drive of five currently operating commuter rail stops. Local residents are not bearing the traffic on Interstate 95 due to a lack of options. Instead I would contend they are driving into Boston because, despite the madness of a complete rush-day, their car is more reliable than the commuter rail.

This proposal for full service to Foxborough comes at a major cost, estimated in 2010 to be as high as $84 million. This is no small figure to the MBTA, an organization already saddled with tremendous debt, a dated infrastructure, gaps in paratransit services for those most in need, and decades behind full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Yes, this is an existing spur that runs through south Walpole, but at 10 miles per hour for freight cars and a "Special Events" train, not at 40 miles per hour for daily commuter trains. The Commonwealth has an obligation to make added investments in safety upgrades for abutting neighbors and an at-grade crossing.

This pilot project will not solve the congestion on I-95. It is also unlikely to increase ridership, only shuffling existing passengers in search of easier parking, at tremendous cost to the state and Walpole residents.

At a fraction of the cost, and with no impact on abutting homes, we can get people from north Foxborough to Boston. In the past, I have suggested rerouting the MBTA's 34E bus or using existing MBTA and GATRA vehicles to run shuttles to area commuter rail stations. These are common sense solutions instead of expanding a service that is already stretched too thin.

If the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has the funding for this project, it would be better utilized by fixing the current system.

Last week's Argument: Would the proposed Dedham Heritage Rail Trail be a benefit to the town?

Yes: 94 percent (491 votes)

No: 6 percent (34 votes)


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.