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Plan for I-91 is one of the stupidest I’ve heard


March 6, 2014
By G. Michael Dobbs

news@thereminder.com

I’ll try to candy-coat this a bit; on second thought, nope.

It is one of the most stupid things I’ve heard of in a long time: let’s spend $260 million on fixing Interstate 91’s viaduct through Springfield while at the same time we are planning to tear it down and do something else with the highway.

OK, maybe it’s not stupid. Perhaps the study to determine how to handle 91 as it flows on the edge of Springfield is just political window-dressing. Who knows if the conclusions of such a study would ever be funded and implemented?

While I applaud the Patrick Administration with attempting to address the problem, the situation underscores the Boston-centric nature of our state and how resources have been used to solve problems there but not here.

Consider all of the calls to make sure Springfield is connected to a commuter line that runs from the Connecticut border to New Haven. Are we committed? Think about the support for commuter rail service from Springfield to Boston. What we need to accomplish this is to have a rail link to Worcester, which already has commuter rail service to Boston. Is that possible?

Every time you pay sales tax, part of it goes directly to support the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. The other transportation authorities around the state don’t have that kind of financing.

Yes, I fully realize the majority of the Commonwealth’s population lives east of Worcester. Does that mean, however, we have to be second-class citizens because we chose to live in Western Massachusetts?

I’m glad that state Sen. Gale Candaras has brought up that the schedule for repairing the highway coincides with the construction of the MGM casino. Talk about a perfect storm. How would that affect downtown businesses? How about the willingness of folks going to the MassMutual Center or Symphony Hall to fight for parking?

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) folks really didn’t have much to say about that.

This mess will be for about three years. Say goodbye to small businesses in the South End. Watch how attendance at downtown events plummets when MassDOT starts closing exits as part of the construction.

Yes, they pledge to keep lanes open on both sides at all times. That’s noble. What they are not considering is how this project will keep people out of Springfield.

Does I-91 need repairs? Yes. Should it be re-designed? Yes. Should MassDOT go back to their cubicles and come up with some other plan? Yes.

Some good news

Somebody should pin a nice medal on Judy Matt and everyone who has been associated with making Bright Nights such a success for the last 19 years.

The annual holiday light display is heading into its 20th season this year and it has attracted, according to Paul Picknelly, 3.8 million people to the city.

That is huge.

Matt and her staff and board at the Spirit of Springfield gathered with local elected and business leaders recently for a breakfast that marked the debut of a new logo for the 20th year as well as a television commercial.

When you consider what goes on in this city – the Falcons, the Armor, the Quadrangle, CityStage, the Springfield Symphony, the Basketball Hall of Fame, other events at the MassMutual Center, the Bing Arts Center, the Zoo at Forest Park, the other events sponsored by the Spirit of Springfield, the City Library, the Parks Department, just to name a few – it amazes me that so many people – and media outlets – want to focus on the negative.

I’m thankful for the people who make attractions such as Bright Nights possible. They continue to make the effort despite the snarky naysayers who revel in the challenges of a city.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.



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