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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Eliminate rubber stamps, not tolls

Deval Patrick says he won't be a rubber stamp. The turnpike authority should prove it won't be the same for its lame duck patron.

The flashes were flashing and reporters scrumming as Patrick, Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President Robert Travaglini had the photo op they wisely avoided during the campaign. Fox 25 wins the award for lucky by capturing Trav's words.
"Lots of people are rooting against us. They're hoping we'll fumble the ball after the first play."
Not sure they are legislative Republicans though. Probably not enough of them to field a football team.

While the leaders got down to business discussing the unilateral Romney cuts -- with Patrick promising he won't be a rubber stamp for lawmakers, work was also going on elsewhere over a Romney-Healey grandstand election move: the stunt to eliminate tolls on the Pike west of 128.

A report to be issued by the special commission looking at the state's transportation needs pegs basic infrastructure needs at $16 billion over the next 20 years. That's without the billion dollars that would be lost with the toll elimination proposed as a campaign stunt.

It's important to recognize this is a panel looking at funding gaps in a transportation plan proposed by Romney himself.
The report says the state could be as much as $7.3 billion short on funding basic repairs and upkeep on state and local roads and bridges over the next 20 years. The MBTA, the report says, is facing a $4 billion to $8.4 billion shortfall over 20 years. The figures used by the commission do not include any major new road or transit projects.
To close that gap, the T is raising fares on subways, buses and commuter rail, the most recent of a series of what will likely become biannual events that drive commuters to the crumbling highways.

Ever helpful, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom says the state will reap $40 million annually by eliminating toll booths. Of course he didn't mention that only somewhat reduces the $114 million annual revenue loss. And I know I believe him over other experts in saying their will be no environmental impact from more cars on the road.

The turnpike board is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Romney for President, using its independent powers to dump whipping boy Matt Amorello so Mittsy doesn't get hung too badly nationally on the Big Dig fiasco.

I wish I could be reassured by their insistence that they will exercise due diligence in reviewing the report of the Romney commission. But their track as a rubber stamp is already clear with the dumping of Amorello. Turnpike drivers deserve a fair shake. But so do T riders -- and state taxpayers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Highways need not be tolled. The reasons are different than those which you might be accustomed to thinking about. You are in for a surprise. Consider the following.

The NASCO (North America Supercorridor Coalition) board, which is heavily influenced by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, successfully lobbied to have money for the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) moved “off budget.” It seems as though one of the affects of this Enron-style accounting trick is to force the federal HTF to go broke by 2008. Another affect is that non-NASCO states, e.g. Massachusetts, will receive less money than they ought to.

In August 2005, President Bush and Congress signed into a law a major transportation bill called SAFETEA-LU. One of the provisions of it is to immediately use all money that is expected to be placed into the federal HTF through September 2009. In December the U.S. Chamber of Commerce concluded nearly all funds had been used. The federal HTF will go broke by 2008.

Consider TxDOT Commissioner Ric Williamson's statements, which are not limited to Texas:

"It's either toll roads, slow roads, or no roads." (May 2004)

“...in your lifetime most existing roads will have tolls." (October 2004)

It’s clear provisions in SAFETEA-LU, plus lobbying by NASCO has been engineered to force the federal HTF to go broke. Therefore, states will no longer receive funding from the federal HTF. (Half of Texas’ DOT budget comes from it.) Therefore, to make up for that, roads will be tolled.

And there’s more. Texas Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, who sit on the Texas Bond Review Board, have been trying to use money from Texas Mobility Fund ONLY to fund TOLL roads. The one who has prevented this travesty is the third member of the board -- Comptroller Strayhorn.

In and around Austin, toll roads have been built and will open in a week, are under construction, or planning to be built. Yet, there are adequate funds to build those roads without levying tolls.

The Trans-Texas Corridor contract had been secret for 17 months. It was made available weeks before the election. One of the secret items in the contract is for Texas to pay for relocating railroad lines. How would that be financed? Toll roads.

So, clearly steps are being taken to force most highways nationwide to be tolled in order to pay for the NAFTA Super-Corridors.

Here are but a few articles for you to check out:

President Bush has been quietly orchestrating building the NASCO Corridors.

Federal Highway Trust Fund going broke in 2008.

China wins NAFTA Super-Highway Battle

I-69: Yet Another NAFTA Super-Highway

Super-Corridor to oblivion

America's Infrastructure Fire Sale.

The superhighway no one is funding.

SPP.gov: Find out why foreign companies are taking over out public infrastructure under the guise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

November 14, 2006 2:23 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Thanks for the comments. I don't believe roads have to be tolled either. I do believe there needs to be fairness. If there are costs that don't come from general or highway funds the assessments must be fair. Mass Pike drivers (and MBTA users) don't use the Big Dig as much as drivers from north and south. I'd rather see the costs paid from the highway funds (gas tax) rather than slapping up tolls booths or raising public transit fares. But I also don't think toll booths should come down until an equitable plan is in place.

November 15, 2006 7:16 PM  

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