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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"The big lie is over"

"The big lie is over." I have to admit the quote is so good that I would use it too -- even with the protection of anonymity.

"One state official" who neatly encapsulated the MBTA's ability to pay for Silver Line tunnel construction project also adequately summed up the commonwealth's overall transportation financing structure.

The system is broken and a major overhaul is needed. Raising tolls to usurious levels isn't the answer either.

The Federal Transit Administration appears ready to declare the obvious -- the MBTA is overextended on capital projects and its ability to pay for even 40 percent for a $1.2 billion tunnel underneath downtown is questionable. Uncle Sucker doesn't want to take that bet.

That of course assumes the project comes in on time and on budget -- a laughable concept when you consider the T Green Line station woes -- including the recent Copley Square debacle.

Not to mention the recent history of digging tunnels under the city.

But the bigger issue is the failure of the state's transportation hierarchy to come up with a timely and realistic plan to address a huge problem that involves not only the MBTA but the Turnpike Authority and roads and bridges in countless cities and towns across the commonwealth.

As a result, we have an outrageous plan to double the tolls on the harbor tunnels and jack up tolls on the Turnpike Extension to pay for the Big Dig. Never mind that regular Pike users generally don't use the new 1-93.

A recommendation by a special commission two years ago called for a 9-cent per gallon gas tax hike and selected tolls increases to pay for a overload of road and bridge projects that are deteriorating as quickly as T service.

Gov. Deval Patrick has been promising a comprehensive transportation plans for more than a year -- while roads and bridges continue to crumble, the T gets so overcrowded it yanks seats to create cattle cars and the Turnpike Authority continues its slow slide into bankruptcy.

This would be the time to offer the rousing editorial recommendation of "the time to act is now." Except the time to act has long since passed.

A kick in the teeth by the federal government -- in the form of withdrawing assistance for that Silver Line project -- MIGHT be enough to break the inertia that is crippling the overall transportation system of the commonwealth.

But then again, this is Massachusetts. If we could tax words, we would be swimming in cash.

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Blogger John Mc said...

it's almost (almost) sad that this project will be canceled because of funding, rather than over the fact that it's a bad transportation project overall. But as long as it goes away I'll be happy.

December 11, 2008 12:15 PM  
Blogger Judy Meredith said...

But then again, this is Massachusetts. If we could tax words, we would be swimming in cash.

Words words words

How do we get all these words -- mostly informed by facts-- off the blogs and into the streets organizing for the revenues needed to repair and reform our public transportation system?

December 11, 2008 2:59 PM  
Blogger Judy Meredith said...

I somehow erased my opening line .

Smart, informed perceptive analysis.

Thank you

December 11, 2008 4:01 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

This story is quite a sigh of relief, as I have always thought that the Washington Street elevated should be replaced with efficient light rail service. The capacity of an LRV is much greater than that of a bus, is less expensive to run, and offers a much smoother ride.

I don’t really buy the argument that the central subway is at capacity. The tunnel between Boylston and Park has a 4-track right-of-way, while only two tracks are in use for most of it. Why not truncate the Washington St. line at Park Street, where it would have minimal interference with the rest of the subway. The branch line dips under the main line, so there would be no waiting at the switch, and the additional switch planned for the “inner northbound” track at Park St. would increase thru traffic capacity. If they expanded the loop to connect to the “outer southbound” track of Park for the turning Washington Street line LRVs, there would be very little interference.

December 11, 2008 7:54 PM  

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