Intra-City High Speed Tram Coming to Downtown New Bedford
by Beau Tiffleday
In a move that is being heralded as groundbreaking, the City of New Bedford has announced plans to connect the city with a brand new, European-style rapid tram system, slated to be up and running by 2015. The light rail line will cover 7 miles of track, connecting Downtown with stations throughout the city, currently planned to stretch from Fort Taber in the south, to the Saver’s plaza in the North End.
The WhaleTram Line, as it has been christened, will be the inaugural project for the city’s new Ministry of Rapid Transit, a department that will also work with the state in implementing Southcoast Rail further down the road. Deputy Minister Tony Nichols, in a press conference held in Custom House Square on Tuesday, expressed City Hall’s excitement at what he described as this “revolutionary undertaking.”
“We live in exciting times, where a city must change if it wants to stay relevant. Whether anyone likes it or not, the era of the automobile is over. For New Bedford to remain competitive into the 21st Century and beyond, we must modernize our infrastructure, and the biggest step we can take toward doing that is to get this long-overdue light rail system up and running. When complete, the WhaleTram will be fully integrated with Southcoast Rail, and this logistical synergy will free Southcoast residents from the dated constraints of private automobile transit. We will be among the first American cities to go completely car-free by 2040.”
According to the Management and Budget Office, this project will be fully paid for by a new city-wide fuel tax hike, and a new value added tax on pajama bottoms and scratch tickets. In response to concerns about space and construction detours, Nichols stated that room for the rail line would be created by eliminating 90% of metered parking in the city, retaining only charging spaces for electric vehicles. When pressed as to the fate of the popular new high heel-accessible crosswalks, the office “gives every assurance that they will be retained”. Construction is slated to begin Memorial Day weekend of 2014.