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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, December 03, 2008

Sucker's bet

I was only kidding, honest.

As state officials look for a fix to the mess known as the Big Pig they should think back to their last brilliant solution. The Metropolitan Highway System was going to use the flush Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to take on the debt load and make financing the monster project fairer and equitable.

We know how well that turned out.

Now lawmakers are thinking about a new pie-in-the-sky solution to wave our problems away -- privatization.

Let's see now. We currently have a bankrupt public authority -- whose members are accountable to the governor -- proposing massive toll hikes to pay for the bonded debt. But if we sell the bloody mess, we get cash up front and dump the problem into the lap of the private sector.

Yeah and I have a bridge over the Charles River that I can sell you.

Privatization of the Pike is the equivalent of a junkie getting a quick fix. The state gets an upfront high (assuming anyone has a few spare billions to toss around in today's economy). Pay off the debt and have enough leftover to deal with all of our other transportation problems.

No one ever said junkies think rationally.

And what happens when the private entity takes over? Does anyone think it will treat its multi-billion dollar investment as a charity? What happens when the tunnel walls start resembling sieves again?

Tolls will continue to rise. Except this time there won't be the leverage of complaining to elected officials. Nope, instead there will be some faceless entity in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur telling you to pound sand. Politely of course.

So what are the alternatives? Maybe they can sell the naming rights to every overpass and bridge abutment? I really have no interest in driving through the Citi Tunnel.

In the end, we need lawmakers to exercise the Matt Amorello Rule: You broke it, you fix it. Or else get Michael Bloomberg to move back to Medford and pay for it out of his own pocket.

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