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The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has chosen a phased approach to help accelerate a project aimed at restoring commuter-rail service to New Bedford, Fall River and Taunton.The department earlier this month filed a notice of project change for the South Coast Rail project with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office. The notice advances the project in phases using the existing Middleborough/Lakeville commuter-rail line to provide early action service sooner than if the project was constructed all at once, MassDOT officials said in a press release.In addition, the notice calls for continuing preliminary engineering design and permitting on the Stoughton Electric route, which is the project's second phase.Phasing in the project will enable the department to use the 7.5-mile Middleborough Secondary Line, which needs to be upgraded to handle commuter-rail traffic.While the environmental review is underway, the department will advance work on the Southern Triangle, which runs from Cotley Junction in Taunton south through Berkley, Lakeville, Freetown, Fall River and New Bedford. The area is common to both the early action and final phases of the project."Our administration is committed to providing the South Coast with commuter rail service as expeditiously and efficiently as possible," said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. "Pursuing the Middleborough/Lakeville early action service while advancing the Stoughton Electric final phase service will facilitate commuter-rail service to the region years earlier."The South Coast Rail project calls for restoring commuter-rail between Boston and Massachusetts' South Coast. Since service to this region ended in 1959, Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford are the only major cities within 50 miles of Boston that lack transit access to the state's capital city.
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