Attleboro hopes new transit hub will rejuvenate downtown

The MBTA purple line that runs from Boston to Wickford is already the most heavily travelled commuter rail line in Massachusetts.

Improvements at Attleboro Station will make it easier for commuters to get to and from the train -- by car or by bus.

"Once we get you to that train station, we might plop you in the middle of nowhere to some extent. So, how do we get you that last mile or half-mile or two miles to home or work?" state Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said.

Gov. Deval Patrick was on hand for the dedication of the new bus terminal, which is part of a plan to create a whole new neighborhood around the train station.

"There has to be a connection between affordable housing, economic growth and transportation. And it's a case we've been making for a couple of years. We made it real hard last year when we asked the Legislature for more resources, and today's project and the things that are planned to follow from the ribbon cutting today are examples of that," Patrick, a Democrat, said.

The dirt lot across from the train station has already seen hundreds of thousands of dollars in clean-up, benefiting from some federal money from the Environmental Protection Agency. It will soon house a six-story building with shops on the first floor and 80 units of housing upstairs.

The roads have been rearranged with the idea of extending downtown to the train station. The influx of shops and residents will be nothing but good news to merchants downtown.

"It's not going to be a like haunted house downtown. It will attract people," said Bill Morin of Morin's Diner.

Morin remembers when crowds backed up at his lunch counter, but those days are far different than today.

"Night and day. It's mostly night. There aren't too many lights on downtown after 5 o'clock," Morin said.

Ambitious plans call for creating a walkway along the Ten Mile River. It would be the biggest change in Mayor Kevin Dumas's tenure as head of the city.

"Re-exposing the connectivity from the river. It's a cantilever system over the Ten Mile River to connect to the Balfour Riverwalk Park," said Dumas, a Republican.

Leaders hope all the developments bring life back to a city that has seen plenty in its day.