When one really is better than two.

The South Coast rail project was discussed in January in the Boston Business Journal.  The Commonwealth is considering reactivating some combination of rail lines from Boston to two cities on the south coast, Fall River and New Bedford.  Some homeowners who live near railroads that potentially will be reactivated would prefer the project die a quiet death.  But the project seems to have a critical mass of support in government.

South Coast Rail Proposals

South Coast Rail Proposals (from EOT)

There are several different alternate proposals for the road to Taunton.  But only one proposal south of that, which is a two-pronged route.  The colored lines on the map represent the different alternatives; the green route is a portion that is common to all of the proposals.  The common portion is a fork-end with one fork serving New Bedford and the other serving Fall River.

The funny thing about this project is that it is being designed as a hub-and-spoke system, with the terminal cities isolated on separate lines and the hub, Boston, forty miles away to the north.  Why not use the opportunity to connect the south coast cities to one another and to their much-nearer neighbor to the west, Providence?

A single line connecting two or three of the cities all together would have the virtues of more frequent service and greater usefulness over shorter distances.  It would be an interstate rail route that would increase the potential for federal and interstate cooperation.  Massachusetts might not need to “go it alone.”

The unified alignment would present construction and placement challenges; right of way would need to be rebuilt or reclaimed in some urban sections, particularly where it is occupied by highways.  But the end result could be a more effective transportation project, serving more and more densely populated areas.  Isn’t that what we’re really after?