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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Friday, August 17, 2007

Zakim Bridge is falling down...

Well not exactly. But the latest report about potentially shoddy construction -- and definitely shoddy management and oversight -- of the Big Dig is enough to make you want to close your windows, lock your doors and curl up in a corner.

First, it's important to note there is a disagreement here between state and federal inspectors over the potential hazards, if any.

The Patrick administration's transportation boss, who inherited this mess from 16 years of Republican "management" says they are well aware of the problem and don't believe it poses the potential risks the feds say it does.

And it is worth noting the federal analysis comes from the Army Corps of Engineers -- which has not exactly acquitted itself with glory in dealing with the problems of the New Orleans levee system before and after Katrina.

Before we panic that the designated symbol of the Big Dig is more symbolic than we ever intended, it is worth noting this potential problem was caught BEFORE anything happened (as opposed to the ceiling tile collapse.)

What is really at issue here is the deplorable condition of our infrastructure -- the roads, bridges and tunnels we use to zip around from Point A to Point B. This is not a new problem -- the failure to waterproof the Storrow Drive Tunnel alongside the Charles River shows that.

(We won't even get into the hare-brained notion that the answer to fixing that involves cutting down 23 trees and running cars through a park).

Whether it was the inability of the New Orleans levees to stand up to what they were supposed to protect New Orleanians from, or the failure of the I-35W bridge period, or the $17 billion infrastructure repair bill the Commonwealth faces, there is a common theme.

And that is Americans like things shiny and new -- but don't want to pay to keep them that way. George Bush's dismissal of higher gasoline taxes to pay for infrastructure reflects the public mood (for a rare change). The fact that this is a wrong mood is irrelevant, sadly.

The United States continues to spend billions, if not trillions, of dollars to fix mistakes -- whether those are in Louisiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts or Iraq. In fact, there is a great willingness to spend to rebuild Baghdad than New Orleans.

The longer we close our eyes to our crumbling transportation system, the more likely it is that tragedies like the flooding of New Orleans, the Big Dig ceiling collapse and the I-35W nightmare will continue.

And as long as we fail to adequately manage new projects that we build, we are setting ourselves up for future tragedies.

But I suppose we could all take the MBTA to work. Oh yeah, I forgot.

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Blogger Ryan Adams said...

I have to say, just from the Globe's article, it seems like the state's case is compelling. However, clearly we need to take a closer look at it.

At this point, I think Governor Patrick has to ask the state what we should do, given two options:

1. Raise taxes to pay for all the fixes we need.

2. Take out massive debt in bonds, paying for it over the next few decades.

Notice how not paying isn't really an option I think the Governor should consider through his bully pulpit.

People tend to be rational. If the Governor - and our legislative leadership - were vocal about our needs and showed where the money would be spent, I'm pretty sure the public would go along with a tax increase. But if they don't, bonds it is.

August 17, 2007 8:42 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Bonds just may be the way to go for some of these costs.

But that also passes the expense onto our kids and grandkids (who are already stuck with huges costs from Bush's deficit-financed war.

There is a need for everyone in the Commonwealth to share the cost of the infrastructure -- and not just those unlucky few stuck in a Faustian bargain they didn't even make.

August 18, 2007 2:05 PM  

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