MASSPORT CONFIRMS NEW BEDFORD RAIL OPTION

MASSPORT CONFIRMS NEW BEDFORD RAIL OPTION

Stephen P. Tocco, the Massachusetts Port Authority's new executive director, has confirmed that the state is examining a route to New Bedford as a possible option for its double-stack rail plan.

Some state officials expressed disbelief when Gov. William F. Weld referred to a possible New Bedford link for double stacks in a taped interview last month. But Mr. Tocco indicated in a separate interview that response to the idea so far has been generally favorable."Nobody's saying it's crazy, crazy, crazy," Mr. Tocco said when asked about the New Bedford alternative at a meeting of the New England East-West Trade Council last week.

It was previously assumed that the Port of Boston would be the only destination for stack routes from the New York state line. Mr. Weld has proposed 90 percent state funding for some $200 million in bridge clearances on routes of four carriers in the state.

Most of the work would be on track of Guilford Transportation Industries Inc. and Consolidated Rail Corp.

While Guilford already has a Boston intermodal link to Massport's Moran Terminal in Charlestown, Conrail's access to Conley Terminal in South Boston remains in doubt, according to state officials. Conrail has said its route to New Bedford, farther south, may be one of several alternatives.

State officials plan to request $200 million in double-stack funding authority as part of a $5.4 billion bond bill to be submitted to lawmakers within the next week while consultants continue to study the access issues.

A key legislator who previously opposed the funding, Rep. Stephen J. Karol, transportation committee co-chairman, said he supports the New Bedford option to help the economically troubled area.

Both Mr. Weld and Mr. Tocco have declined to discuss the possible use of Massport funds for clearances if the Legislature balks at the cost. But some officials have suggested that Massport could contribute to clearance work, at least in areas near its Boston terminals, if it proves necessary.

On another transport issue, Mr. Tocco indicated that Massport's new Republican administration is examining a controversial Democratic plan to ease congestion at Logan International Airport with "peak-hour" landing fees, strongly opposed by general aviation groups.

Mr. Tocco said he had met with Mr. Weld and Lt. Gov. Paul Celucci to relay complaints from several airlines about the problem of Logan's long delays.

"The mandate I got from them was to solve it and we'll sort out the politics as we move forward," Mr. Tocco said.