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South Coast Rail opening new Freetown station

Steve Poftak
Steve Poftak, general manager MBTA, holding a sign for the new Freetown commuter rail station.
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Top state and local officials held a ceremony celebrating the opening of the new Freetown train station on the South Coast, a key section in the decades-long effort to provide commuter rail service to New Bedford and Fall River.

Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito were among the officials involved in the ribbon cutting ceremony Monday.

Freetown is a station along the Fall River section of the South Coast Rail. Service on the line is expected to begin next year. Planning the line started three decades ago, if not earlier, Baker said in his remarks.

“How are we going to claim to be an inclusive commonwealth if the south coast of Massachusetts – and Fall River and New Bedford in particular – did not have access to the public transportation that is available to all the other communities within 50 miles of Boston with any significant size?” Baker said.

Baker also thanked officials on the South Coast for their patience and persistence moving the project along.

Neither the Baker administration or a representative to the MBTA could give a date for when service is expected to begin next year, but Baker said that the project is “on time and on budget.”

Steve Poftak, the MBTA's General Manager, said the new Freetown station is 800 square feet with parking, canopies, benches and charging stations for electric cars.

Poftak said the $159 million project includes 12 miles of new railroad track, nine bridges and two new stations. Phase One of the South Coast rail line connects Fall River to Boston.

Service to New Bedford on the South Coast Rail is also expected to begin within next year. The New Bedford line will include a terminus station in the city, and a station on Church Street in northern New Bedford.

Poftak said there was an effort to be environmentally friendly during construction. Granite from old culverts was used to create artificial reefs for shellfish off the coast of Cape Cod, through a partnership with the state fisheries department.

Fall River state representative Carole Fiola thanked Governor Baker for finally bringing service to the South Coast during her remarks. She noted that many governors made the promise, but Baker came through.

“I think today of the residents of Freetown and Fall River who will benefit from the economic opportunities, the investment opportunities, and just the quality of life that this is going to bring them and those that want to visit our beautiful area of the Commonwealth,” Fiola said.

Sam Houghton has been with the station since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.