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Announcement expected on southeast rail line

Governor Deval Patrick is expected to announce today plans for a $1.4 billion commuter rail link to New Bedford and Fall River, hoping to make good on a long-awaited expansion of the state's public transportation system.

Patrick has not identified a funding source for the undertaking, but plans to name a project manager to shepherd the rail expansion through planning and environmental reviews, according to lawmakers briefed on the project.

State Senator Marc R. Pacheco, Democrat of Taunton, one of the lawmakers briefed yesterday by Patrick's Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, said the latest estimate for the project is "in excess of $1.4 billion," far higher than previous estimates.

Pacheco would not say what kind of timeline the administration offered. "It's not something that's going to be done in a year or two," he said.

The plan sets a proposed start date for service of 2016 and includes $31 million to expand South Station, according a source familiar with the project.

The South Station expansion would involve relocating a main Post Office facility to make room for additional rails, according to the source, who said Patrick is committing $17 million over three years for the initial design phase of the rail project.

A spokesman for Patrick declined to comment on the plan.

The plan, which Patrick is expected to announce at a press conference in New Bedford, also fulfills a key campaign pledge from the Democratic governor who promised that "in the first 90 days of my administration, we will have a timeline to get this project done."

Representative Antonio F. D. Cabral, Democrat of New Bedford, a long-time proponent of the rail plan, said he was optimistic that after years of false starts, the project might finally be on track.