Citing a need for infrastructure improvements, the MBTA has pushed back a Foxborough commuter rail pilot program - which has garnered considerable opposition in Walpole - to the fall.
The pilot had originally been set to begin in May.
Joe Pesaturo of the MBTA wrote in a statement that upgrades to the railroad signals and switches between Walpole and Foxborough are expected to be completed later this year.
“This ongoing infrastructure work is necessary not only for the commuter rail pilot but also for freight service and passenger trains that serve multiple events at Gillette Stadium annually,” he said. “With support from the private sector, this service pilot will provide additional transportation options in the region, increase access to employment opportunities and promote economic development and growth in the Foxborough area.”
Pesaturo noted that the MBTA and state Department of Transportation were looking forward to piloting the service when the work comes to an end.
The MBTA runs trains to the Foxborough station - located near Gillette Stadium - for stadium events. The pilot would look to institute regular stops at that location.
Walpole officials and residents have been vocal in their opposition to the plan, seeking a number of concessions from the state.
The Board of Selectmen has asked the state to substantially lower the speed limit on the rail near the Summer Street crossing. State officials, however, noted that trains pass through many crossings at 79 miles per hour - much higher than the projected 40 to 45 miles an hour expected at the Walpole crossing. Going slower, they said, would hurt the viability of the project.
Both local selectmen and residents have said they do not believe the service will benefit Walpole at all. Some residents believed the state was forcing the change upon the town.
At a January forum, State Rep. Shawn Dooley expressed doubt about demand for the pilot, claiming it was being done to benefit New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
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