The $3.4 billion South Coast Rail (SCR) project is currently the largest in the Commonwealth, intended to restore transit service between Boston and southeastern Massachusetts for the first time since the late 1950s. Involving a multitude of stakeholders, it’s also one of the more complex undertakings to date by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA). The SCR project is to be built in phases, with the total build encompassing 56 miles of track and railbed; signals and communications; 10 new stations, including two terminal stations and two rehabilitated stations; 43 at-grade crossings; more than 50 bridges; layover facilities; and utilities, including miles of retaining wall and drainage structures. Once fully completed, the SCR project will restore reliable, transfer-free passenger rail transportation from South Station in Boston to 31 communities throughout southern Massachusetts.
For more than two decades, the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) have looked to VHB to deliver a smooth transition from permitting, planning, and design to construction. VHB advanced the SCR project through the permit review and acquisition process, obtaining both National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) clearances in 2011. As Program Manager starting in 2014, VHB developed the phasing and packaging strategy, as well as the preliminary design for the overall program. As the project moved through design, our team prepared environmental permitting applications under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, and the U.S. Clean Water Act. VHB led the Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act review process, which included extensive consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer, Native American tribes, municipalities, and other interested parties. VHB also developed a comprehensive approach to avoidance, minimization, and mitigation for impacts to wetlands and other natural resources, including surveys for listed species, design of compensatory wetland areas, and specialized wildlife crossing structures.
As the project has moved into Phase 1 construction, which will extend the existing Middleborough/Lakeville commuter rail service from Boston to Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford, VHB has transitioned to Designer of Record to complete final design, permits, and to perform construction phase services, including environmental monitoring. Phase 1 includes 34 miles of track, six new stations, two layover facilities, a new signal and communication system, while navigating multiple bridges, culverts, and grade crossings. VHB has also prepared the conceptual design and permitting strategy for the next phases of the overall SCR program.