Sept. 5, 1958: The last train to Boston leaves New Bedford
After about a century of service, the New Haven Railroad stopped running trains to New Bedford, Fall River, and Taunton because of financial losses.
Jan. 24, 1988: The MBTA starts to consider a South Coast commuter rail expansion
The agency announced tentative plans to extend the Stoughton commuter rail line to Taunton as part of a broader push to expand commuter rail service.
1991: Gov. Bill Weld promises South Coast rail by 1997
The transportation bond issue the governor signed in May 1991 funded preliminary environmental and design work to extend the Stoughton line down to New Bedford and Fall River.
“If you don’t have commuter rail by 1997, sue me,” he said at a Fall River Chamber of Commerce meeting that year.
This past Wednesday, just before heading to South Station to catch a commuter train to Readville, Weld told The Light that he remembers saying it — and he doesn’t regret it.
“It was very much our plan,” he said.
August 1996: Transportation bond bill further funds project
Weld signed a bill authorizing $136 million for a commuter rail extension to New Bedford and Fall River.
October 1998: The MBTA starts early construction work
Even though the exact route had not yet been finalized, Gov. Paul Celucci attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Fall River kicking off bridge repairs for the South Coast Rail project. Critics at the time called the work premature.
July 16, 2003: Gov. Mitt Romney halts the South Coast Rail project
The governor said the MBTA was years away from any expansions during a visit to Fall River. He cited a lack of funding.
April 4, 2007: Gov. Deval Patrick re-starts the planning process
April 17, 2014: The state puts even more money toward South Coast Rail
As costs continued to rise, the Massachusetts Legislature allocated $2.3 billion for the project.
March 23, 2017: The MBTA settles on a final construction plan
The plan separated the work into two phases as a way to complete the project sooner. In the first phase, trains will connect South Coast communities with the Middleborough/Lakeville line by 2024. The second phase will be electric and connect to the Stoughton line in the 2030s.
It was a controversial move. State Rep. Bill Straus supported the plan, but Mayor Jon Mitchell was “deeply skeptical.”
July 2, 2019: The MBTA holds another groundbreaking ceremony
With complete plans for construction and funding — and some construction work already underway — the state held a ceremony in Freetown to mark the official start of South Coast Rail’s first phase.
Nov. 8, 2022: New Bedford officially joins the MBTA
Despite some concerns about gentrification, New Bedford voted by an 80% margin to become an MBTA community. In Fall River, 78% of voters agreed to join the MBTA.
“I said yes, ‘cause why not?” New Bedford resident Joshua Pound told The Light on Election Day. “I would go to Boston more if it wasn’t for the traffic.”
Late 2023: MBTA officials aim to start running passenger trains
Construction is expected to finish in September, which will kick off a safety testing process that the agency plans to complete by the end of the year.
Information for this timeline was compiled by reporter Grace Ferguson. Email her at email@example.com.