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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bridges to the future

Deval Patrick can take comfort in knowing that if Bill Buckner can be forgiven, he has hope.

Patrick is trying to rebuild his bridges to the public, literally. The question is not whether they will buy the concept, which is extraordinarily overdue, but the price tag.

The state's transportation system is a mess, indeed of $15 to $19 billion in repairs over the next 20 years. The MBTA, well, don't get me started.

The $3.8 billion in bond authority Patrick is seeking is really just a drop in the bucket.

There are 608 structurally deficient bridges right now, according to state officials, but that figure grows each year. Under the governor's proposal, and current spending plans, 808 bridges would be repaired over the next eight years, bringing the number of structurally deficient bridges down to 450. If no work were done over the next eight years, there would be 1,264 problem bridges.

This bill would target 411 deteriorating bridges over the next eight years. A separate transportation bond bill takes aim at 397 more.

The problem is the bond bucket is already overflowing with the Big Dig and other worthwhile but expensive capital projects across the state, a $1.3 billion gap in the fiscal 2009 budget and a structural budget problem to boot.

Critics will be quick to say that revenues are running well ahead of estimate this year and all this talk about new cigarette taxes and closing corporate tax loopholes is nonsense in a recession.

Aside from the fact that long-term capital needs don't (OK, shouldn't) come out of operating funds, the argument is specious because the need is overwhelming. There are a number of bridges I hate to cross -- the BU Bridge for example. I'm sure others have their not-so-favorites too.

And what, you may ask, is the connection between bridge repairs, Patrick and Buckner? Ever notice a similarity between the bridge's support columns and a certain first baseman's fielding stance on a fateful night in October 1986?

Lenny Zakim was a fine, in fact, perfect choice to honor. But after naming the tunnel after a baseball player, I couldn't think of a more appropriate baseball candidate for the bridge.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mentioned below how Treasurer Tim is setting himself up to run for Governor, with advice from one of the PR moguls. No loyalty here. He will look for ways to undercut the Governor for his own advantage and fill in vacuums of his own creation. This is a brilliant strategy. Here's the latest example, in which he tries to makes it clear that he is the guardian of fiscal prudence in the Executive Branch. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/04/10/cahill_bridge_plan_too_costly/

April 10, 2008 6:00 AM  

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