Commuter rail: Next stop Wareham?

Feb 4, 2014

Wareham is $75,000 closer to getting commuter rail service to Boston.

The $75,000 for initial design and permit scoping for a commuter rail station in the town was part of a $12 billion transportation bill passed by the Massachusetts House on Jan. 29.

“This is a very important step to show that Wareham is ready to move forward with the expansion of commuter rail service from the Middleboro/Lakeville stop,” said State Rep. Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham), who was instrumental in securing the funding.

She said the first step is to find the best location for the station.

Gifford held community meetings alongside State Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett), chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, years ago to gauge public opinion on station locations.

“The location that makes the most sense is property by Wareham Crossing,” 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.

“Wareham has to be ready and show the Massachusetts Department of Transportation we are ready and willing to participate in the extension of commuter rail,” Gifford said.

She said the success of last summer's Cape Flyer weekend Boston-to-Hyannis service was a major factor in MassDOT looking into the expansion.

Last Thursday, selectmen Alan Slavin and Peter Teitelbaum met with engineers for the Cape Flyer service. Slavin said the platform on Merchant’s Way would be moved slightly south, closer to the Wareham Fire Department. He said the Cape Flyer service is set to start again on Memorial Day weekend.

The transportation bill will now be taken up in the state Senate, and if passed, move along to the governor. Gifford said in order to safeguard the Wareham earmark, the amendment will need to be filed and adopted by the Senate in their deliberations on the bill.

The bill authorizes the state to borrow money, but doesn’t guarantee all projects will be funded.

“We have to make the right kind of noise,” Gifford said about keeping the earmark in the Senate version of the bill. “It has to do with persistence.”

Gifford hopes the bill will be passed by the end of the formal legislative session on July 31.

“The commuter rail service to Wareham has been a priority of mine since I served on the Board of Selectmen. At that time, it was the first board to vote in favor of pursuing this,” Gifford said. “Over the years, there have been many obstacles to overcome but I never gave up and will continue to push toward this goal.”