Transportation, infrastructure improvements need to benefit Western Mass. too

Jan. 14, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

Chris Lisinski of the State House News Service reported the following last week: “House leaders have offered few details about what they plan to include in a transportation revenue package targeted for release this month, but two advocates said Wednesday that toll increases and expansions should be a critical part of the strategy. In a WGBH panel discussion on transportation funding, A Better City CEO Rick Dimino said the state could raise more than half of the $50 billion in new revenue his organization believes is needed for transportation by adding tolls to roads that currently do not have them, increasing the existing tolls and imposing tolls at the state’s borders. The changes could also help improve equity across the state by ensuring most drivers face similar costs for their commutes, compared to the current system where North Shore and MetroWest motorists bear most of the tolls. ‘Roadway pricing is a critical part of our future as well as an important part of how we deal with greenhouse gas emissions and how we deal with congestion,’ Dimino said. ‘We hope that's a piece of this legislation.’”

So for years I’ve heard the argument the bulk of state transportation resources must stay in the eastern part of the state because that’s where everyone lives. Now, the idea is being floated that people outside of the Boston area should pay more through additional road tolls.  

Does that mean out here as well, where we have much more limited mass transit options? The comment was about roads at the Commonwealth’s borders with other states. Does that meant Vermont, New York and Connecticut? Increased turnpike tolls? Tolls on I-91?

Lisinski added, “Key House legislators have not ruled any new revenue other than a public transit fare hike off the table for the upcoming debate, and they hinted an increase to the state's 24-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax is likely to be a piece of the solution.”

An increase to the gasoline tax is felt far more out here than in the greater Boston area, because we use our cars far more to get around.

Would any of that increase in taxes stay in the four western counties? Would any of it be used to increase or fund more efficiently out current mass transit options?

The tremendous traffic congestion in the eastern part of the state can be attributed in part to the Commonwealth’s lack of effort to spread economic development across the state in a more equitable manner.

I get it. Companies have wanted to be in the Boston area because of the amenities and cultural features that region has to attract employees. The problem is the success of those decades of effort has resulted in growth that is not sustainable. The roads are clogged, housing costs have skyrocketed and the cost of doing business has increased.

If the proposed increases in tolls or taxes actually had standing allocations to transportation projects here I would consider supporting them. My fear is without any such allocations, we would be paying to support improvements that mean nothing to us.

And this is par for the course.

Comprehensive transportation reform and infrastructure improvements are needed that would benefit the entire Commonwealth.

Saying goodbye

Readers of this column have noted over the years of my references to the family dog, Lucky the Wonder Bichon. I’ve had readers reference Lucky to me and it was fun to make him part of this family as he was part of our family.

After a long period of declining health, we made the decision he should suffer no longer. He was 19 years old.

I want to thank the professionalism and caring exhibited – as usual – by the staff of the Eastfield Hospital of Animals. They are wonderful and caring health care providers.

Lucky was a loving, sweet, but strong willed little guy with many idiosyncratic behaviors. He had to sit next to my wife on the couch but he had to sleep next to me. He disliked my wife and I being in different rooms, especially when I was in the three-season room smoking a cigar. He would come see me, then go see her, back and forth.

Like any beloved family member he will be missed very much

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