The Standard Times, Tuesday, April 11, 2017 – Page A5

By State Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, is president pro tempore of the Massachusetts State Senate and founding chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change.

Since the early 1980s, Massachusetts residents have been promised a South Coast Rail project that would bring reliable, adequate service to all of Southeastern Massachusetts and provide our neglected cities with a direct line into Boston.

This goal, apparently, has been changed by the administration in favor of an expedient political move that will give us a potential bait-and-switch, an interim route with extra construction, decreased service to important Gateway Cities and a higher overall bill for taxpayers.

On March 15, the state Department of Transportation, MassDOT, filed a Notice of Project Change for a new phased approach to the rail project that constructs a Middleboro route in “Phase 1,” and then — maybe — a Stoughton route in “Phase 2.”

If we really want regional rail implemented, we need to have the proper capacity from the start — and that capacity is only found through Stoughton.

From the very beginning, the Stoughton route has been preferred because of its less adverse environmental impacts and high ridership numbers.

MassDOT, curiously, has no ridership figures for the interim and Middleboro routes, yet they filed this notice as if they do.

The only numbers we have are preliminary, and they point to a total of eight Middleboro rail trips per day verses a total of 40 Stoughton rail trips per day.

Which scenario would carry the most people? Which scenario would clear our congested highways?

The answer is clear: Stoughton.

We must make our regional rail travel worthwhile. If we don’t, I am convinced that this “second phase” will never come to fruition, with admin-istration officials pointing to low ridership numbers of a route they never vetted.

If our goals are to decrease congestion on our highways,

lower our greenhouse gas emissions and provide proper rail service to Southeastern Massachusetts, a phased approach is unacceptable.

The administration, after 30 years of looking at the Stoughton route, has inexplicably only completed 15 percent of its design. Resources are not being used appropriately.

On April 13, this Thursday, a public meeting will be held at the University of Massachusetts School of Law on Faunce Corner Road in Dartmouth for citizens to sound off on the proposal.

If we want South Coast Rail to actually happen, we need to make sure we have a proper route from the start. The citizens of Southeastern Massachusetts need to make this administration aware that we’ve moved past a scenario of good faith.

We need public investment and a guaranteed commitment to the Stoughton route, a path that’s been preferred after every single analysis thus far.

The success of this entire project depends on it.