The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is launching a Safety First education program in conjunction with the opening of the South Coast Rail (SCR) Phase 1 service between Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. The opening of the SCR Phase 1 service allows for MBTA Commuter Rail trains to begin service to and from Middleborough, East Taunton, Freetown, Fall River and New Bedford for the first time in decades.
As SCR Phase 1 nears the operation of test trains and the beginning of passenger service, the Safety First program shares rail safety rules and basics through brochures, videos, and presentations. The goal of the outreach is to bring an understanding of safety rules to every southeastern Massachusetts city and town. The MBTA has prepared four safety videos for students of several ages and the public.
Later in 2023, the MBTA will begin running test trains along SCR Phase 1 track areas. In certain areas, train speeds will have the potential to reach speeds of up to 80 mph. Since 1959, track areas in the southeastern region of Massachusetts area only saw freight trains a few times a day, operating at speeds of up to 25 mph or less. As a component of the Safety First outreach, area residents will be reminded that rail rights-of-way are private property and entering or crossing a right-of-way is illegal, creates a significant safety risk and is expressly prohibited except for when accessing stations or at specifically designated crossings.
The Safety First program is made possible in part through a grant from Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI). In December 2022, OLI awarded more than $140,000 in grant funds to eight transit agencies in six states for rail transit safety public awareness and education projects and campaigns. The approved grants were awarded through a competitive process, based upon criteria such as key safety messages, target audiences and evaluation methods. The MBTA received funding to implement a public education program to include community outreach and multilingual safety materials in advance of the resumption of SCR passenger service in southeastern Massachusetts at the end of 2023. Funding for the OLI grants comes from the Federal Transit Administration.