FREETOWN — A proposal would convert the intersection of Forge and Richmond roads, aka Route 79, into a crucial rail crossing that would connect to the new Freetown rail station on South Main Street.

MassDOT recently hosted a public meeting to discuss the idea. “We’re letting people know exactly where we are with Phase 1 and what the ramifications are for the town of Freetown,” said Jean Fox, project manager for South Coast Rail.

The Southern Triangle portion of the South Coast Rail will link New Bedford and Fall River to Taunton’s Cotley Junction by building additional stations, forming the New Bedford Main Line and Fall River Secondary Line. Cotley Junction, the tip of the Southern Triangle, will then link with Middleboro using an existing secondary freight line. Freetown is a required connection for the Fall River Secondary Line.

As stated by Fox, the Richmond/Forge intersection represents “the most difficult grade crossing in the entire corridor.” The proposal would convert Forge Road into a one-way street for the sections leading to Richmond Road. Vehicles will be unable to turn onto Forge Road from Richmond Road, though Forge Road will retain two-way emergency operations through the construction of an elevated concrete apron which will connect with Richmond Road. The proposal will mostly follow the existing alignment of the roads.

“We received overall approval from the Office of Public Safety and the Board of Selectmen on this proposal,” said Fox. She added that with the Freetown station stop, “Don’t expect a full-blown station like South Station or Union Station; this will just be platforms and a parking lot.” The lot itself will contain 107 parking spaces, but will have “adequate real estate to expand,” according to Fox.

Regarding traffic, Fox said a thorough analysis concluded that Freetown won’t suffer major traffic impacts with the inclusion of the station. “Other communities along the corridor we think will have significant impacts, but not Freetown,” said Fox, herself a resident of the town. Fox did state peak periods in the morning and evenings could yield substantial traffic going in and out of the station from South Main Street, but that’s to be expected.

A component discussed, which is applicable to other communities across the region, is noise mitigation, particularly at restructured crossings. Freight rails will be converted from old-fashioned jointed rails to more modern continuously welded, which aren’t as noisy and are meant for faster trains, according to Fox. In addition, track ballast stones will be placed under the rail bed to reduce vibrations. Sound-absorbing plants are also being contemplated as an extra measure.

Regarding horn sounds from approaching trains Fox stated it’s about safety. “The reality is you’ll hear the train. Sound horns will be a shock for some, but over time will get accustomed,” she said.

A huge part of helping residents within a certain proximity to these rails will be reparations from MassDOT. According to Fox, homes and properties where the possible impact is severe will receive financial compensation for upgrades to reduce noise and vibrations. This includes soundproof windows, doors, and wall insulation.

The determination of eligible properties is based on technical reporting done across the whole rail corridor. One of the requirements will be if the property is within 100 feet of rails. “Certainly, when you implement public transportation there’s an enormous public benefit, but no good public benefit goes unpunished. Someone feels an impact,” said Fox.

Fox emphasized that MassDOT won’t dictate to owners what they do with their money, nor will they send contractors to their homes to analyze needs or install measures. “We suggest people engage with contractors themselves, get quotes, and figure out how to utilize the funds,” said Fox.

Dollar amounts for homes will differ and be based on various factors, like size of the home, location, assessed value, etc. MassDOT will start notifying owners within the next year of compensation.

Construction on rail crossings in Freetown will commence sometime in late spring or early summer.