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letters | the state’s transit challenges

Patrick’s South Coast rail push is pure folly

In the Oct. 23 Metro article “Patrick gives details on how transport funds may be spent,” Governor Patrick says, “Imagine if you worked here in Boston and could get a fast train to New Bedford . . . within 45 minutes. It completely transforms the way we think about economic growth.”

This is pure political folly, and the governor needs to be challenged on the point. The South Coast Rail initiative proposes southward extension of the existing Stoughton Commuter Rail line. At present, it takes 44 minutes at peak windows for a train to get from South Station to Stoughton. A train can only go as fast as its tracks will allow, and the number of station stops and rural grade crossings and the track curvature make a 45-minute trip to the south coast impossible.

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Faster electric trains will have the same limitations. The recent Army Corps of Engineers environmental report recommends electrifying the line. This will add several hundred million dollars to the nearly $2 billion price tag.

Stop the madness.

As a daily rider of commuter rail service for more than 15 years, I can attest that we need to fix what we have before we significantly expand the system. The MBTA is akin to an old house with a leaky roof and drafty windows, for which the homeowner cannot afford the existing utility bills or mortgage. Would it be wise to increase the mortgage and build a new addition for the house before addressing the existing issues?

Furthermore, new lines would need heavy operating subsidies, which only further weaken the T’s finances.

Christopher M.


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