By Kathleen McKiernan
April 14. 2016 7:14PM
NEW BEDFORD — South Coast Rail would receive $148 million over the next five years from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, according to its draft capital plan released this week.
The draft plan includes a total of $222 million for local infrastructure projects statewide and will move to a final vote by the MassDOT Board in mid- to late May.
Under the planned spending, South Coast Rail, Route 18 redevelopment, the CoveWalk atop the hurricane barrier, and New Bedford Regional Airport would all see funding for improvements. While South Coast Rail would receive the largest chunk, the airport would get about $18.9 million for infrastructure improvements.
Towns throughout SouthCoast also would secure funding for bridge replacements, maintenance work and stormwater improvements, according to the plan.
In Acushnet, the bridge replacement project over Hamlin Street over the Acushnet River would see $2.3 million. Dartmouth road projects on Tucker Road and I-195 maintenance would get $17.4 million. Stormwater improvements along Routes 240 and 6 in Fairhaven is slated for $228,659.
Route 18 in New Bedford would see an additional $8,488,789 for upgrades.
State Sen. Mark Montigny said the area projects will “define the future of the economy of the region.”
“The impact is enormous,” he said. “First, just the sheer job creation from infrastructure jobs. One of the best ways for the public sector to stimulate the economy is bridge and road work.”
“As someone who has been passionate about this for years, we feel very positive because of everything MassDOT and the administration has had to deal with as a result of last year’s winter and years of deferred and nonexistent maintenance. This is encouraging,” said Jean C. Fox, the project manager for South Coast Rail.
City Council President Linda Morad said, “it is one step closer to us getting it done,” referring to long-sought rail connection to Boston.
“It would be a very big economic boost to the area,” Morad said. “As someone who commuted for 20-plus years, people in the SouthCoast need that type of transportation.”
Residents, she said, have helped pay for transportation projects across the state and it is their turn now.
MassDOT will hold a series of meetings throughout the state to solicit public input on its draft five-year, multibillion dollar plan. It will hold its New Bedford meeting at the downtown public library on April 28.
By Kathleen McKiernan