A state representative Monday blasted a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority proposal to run daily commuter rail trains to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, saying the agency should focus on improving the service it currently provides.
State Representative Shawn Dooley, a Republican from Norfolk, told the MBTA’s fiscal control board that the proposed expansion, and its effects on existing service, would be a major concern for his constituents.
“We have been expanding throughout the years without fixing what is broken,” he said.
Adding more trains would put more pressure on the Franklin Line, which runs to Foxborough for special events, such as New England Patriots home games, he
Over the past seven days, more than 80 percent of the line’s rush hour trains have been on time, according to MBTA statistics.
The MBTA’s commuter rail provider, Keolis Commuter Services, already runs some trains to Gillette Stadium, which is owned by The Kraft Group. Founded by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the business could subsidize a pilot program by as much as $200,000, officials said in November. Expanded service would initially last about a year but could then become permanent.
MBTA officials have not provided an estimated cost for the program, but a 2010 study found that full-time service to Foxborough, including a new station and other infrastructure improvements, could run to $84 million.
In late 2014, the MBTA discussed plans to increase service to Foxborough, and in January 2015 reached a deal with The Kraft Group/Foxboro Realty Associates LLC. But just a few weeks later, a record-breaking winter brought widespread cancellations and delays, and the idea was shelved.
As the MBTA has looked to cut costs, officials and the Kraft Group have discussed expanding service on a trial basis. Foxborough’s Board of Selectmen recently voiced support for the pilot program, which would feature four round trips from South Station.
But at Monday’s meeting, Dooley denounced the idea, saying the MBTA should not finance a “separate line that really only services the Kraft Group.”
“This is a great business model for them to make their property substantially more valuable,” he said. “This should not be subsidized by the taxpayers.”
But Paul Matthews, executive director of the 495/MetroWest Partnership, a group dedicated to economic growth, said many would welcome expanded service, particularly if it were evaluated openly.
“We applaud the board’s willingness to consider such pilots, considering the potential benefits for the economy, environment, and our transportation system,” he wrote in a letter to the board.
Several board members appeared to be wary about the idea. Board member Steven Poftak asked members to be “honest with ourselves” about the implications of testing new rail service and how that might affect daily operations.
“The notion that adding commuter rail service would not require additional vehicles is a false one,” he said.
Joseph Aiello, the board’s chairman, said the agency needed to focus on improving current service.
“I worry about the limited human capital at this place, getting distracted from safety, customer service, state of good repair, and investment,” he said. “I would be reluctant to have a pilot program that was unhinged from the clear ability of this organization to perform the things that need to be priorities.”