Investing in transportation is investing in our future

On February 27, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

jehlenBy Senator Patricia Jehlen and Kristina Egan

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff  or publishers.)

Transportation is key to Massachusetts’ economic future, but it is currently at risk.

Public transportation’s power to grow our economy and create great communities can be seen in the growth of places like Davis Square, which flourished with the extension of the Red Line in 1985. Today, with development at Assembly Square and construction on the Green Line extension, we are creating jobs in Somerville and making it one of the most well-connected regions of the commonwealth.

Unfortunately, the MBTA, and the rest of our transportation system, is falling further into debt and disrepair. Red Line service is regularly disrupted and delayed by breakdowns because it is operating 43-year-old train cars, cars that should have been retired 15 years ago. Our roads are riddled with potholes and haven’t been upgraded.  The McCarthy overpass is just one example of the hundreds of bridges across the commonwealth that need urgent repairs to avoid collapse.

In a 2007 report, the Transportation Finance Commission stated that Massachusetts is facing a funding gap of $15 billion to $19 billion over the next 20 years to properly maintain our roads, bridges, and public transit infrastructure. The disrepair of our transportation infrastructure is endangering future economic growth. Every year CNBC ranks “America’s Top States for Business.” From 2011 to 2012, Massachusetts fell from 6th overall to 28th. While we remain among the top ranked states in many categories, our ranking in the category of Infrastructure & Transportation fell from 29th to a dismal 45th. This trend cannot continue, and substantial new revenue is needed to mend the gap.

It is important that we create a final plan that will generate adequate revenue to meet basic operating, maintenance, debt service and capital needs along with service expansions that spur economic growth.  The Governor’s budget proposal aims to raise necessary transportation revenue in a way that will not disproportionately affect low and middle income families and individuals. As we move forward on creating long-term, comprehensive funding solutions to meet all of our statewide transportation needs, we should consider the Governor’s budget proposal among many of the other revenue options that are on the table.

Transportation funding is at a crisis point.  For decades, Massachusetts has underfunded repairs of our transit, roads, and bridges. Report after report has shown the need for major investment in repairs to our entire transportation infrastructure. We now have a unique opportunity to restore our transportation system and we must not let it pass. With crumbling roads and bridges, severely outdated MBTA vehicles, and the specter of further cuts to transit service, addressing the transportation funding gap can’t wait. When we invest in transportation, we invest in those things we all care about: jobs, the economy, education, a better quality of life, and our environment.  Following World War II, our nation invested in highways and public transportation, spurring a period of growth, but recently we have postponed maintenance and avoided needed improvements. The time has come to invest in a 21st century transportation system for ourselves and future generations.

As a part of the statewide conversation we have planned a community forum about the importance of transportation to residents and businesses alike, along with proposed solutions for how to raise the needed revenue. The forum, co-hosted by the Somerville delegation, other area legislators, the Somerville, Medford and Winchester Chambers of Commerce, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, will be held on March 6th from 5:30-7:30pm at Century Bank (400 Mystic Ave Medford 02155). Please join us to hear from MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey, Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Thomas Bent (Somerville representative to the Metropolitan Planning Organization) and others, and to share your thoughts for the future.

Senator Pat Jehlen represents Somerville and is co-chair of the MBTA caucus.  Kristina Egan is the director of the Transportation for Massachusetts coalition.


6 Responses to “Investing in transportation is investing in our future”

  1. mememe says:

    The state has more then enough money to invest in all its transportation desires. It just so happens that politicians like Jejlen decide they want other stuff more.

    Why do we mandate that all services provided by the state are set equal to the union wage, as opposed to allowing full bidding?
    Why do we spend more then 50% of the state budget on health and human services?
    Why do we pay all state employees for “Bunker Hill Day” and “Evacuation Day”?
    Why do we provide such generous defined benefit pensions to all workers?
    Why do we mandate hair replacement in health insurance, and then pay huge amounts to publicly supply insurance to a large part of the state?
    Why do we XXXX? (anything the state pays for)

    The answer is that politicians value these, and all other spending above transportation projects. If transpiration was truly important to politicians, there is enough money to fix it. But they decide their pet projects are all more important, and that wining about transportation is a good way to get people to look the other way at tax hikes.

  2. A Moore says:

    It’s too bad we didn’t have the kind of leadership to oversee these things before it became a problem right in the middle of a debt crisis in America. Obviously we have made some really bad choices in the voting booth.

  3. cpkostos says:

    Massachusetts is run by politicians ,who’ve been in office way too long, and lawyers, 98% of whom don’t have any experience on running a successful business. We need term limits! It should also be illegal to run for office if you have a law degree because it’s a direct conflict of interest.
    That’s like letting a fox mind the chicken coup. Let’s get back to basics and get some real people in office!!!

  4. j connelly says:

    “Why do we provide such generous defined benefit pensions to all workers?” Duh, We do not. The state/cities/town have not put their share into the pension funds for decades. The majority of the money is deducted weekly from the employees pay checks, it’s their own money.

    Then to add insult to injury the “Bacon Hill” gang and local mayors borrow funds from the employees pension funds and still have not paid back that money they owe the employees. The employees are not the problem in MA. It’s the politicians and their hack appointees that are the
    problem. Until you vote the bad politicians out of office things are not going to change.

    Even Alderman Taylor pointed out that the eminent domain process in Union Square is taking more land than the GLX needs. Why? Lego Joe want$ to take care of hi$ developer buddie$.

  5. A. Moore says:

    Have none of these people ever had to run a household based on the amount of income that comes in? This is the real world. Is common sense gone altogether? We desperatly need people in office working for us more than ever. Enough. Even the govenors own democrats are not buying this.

  6. Hound Dog says:

    Wait a dang gone minute, Everybody thought that Joey Cakes and his gang of stooges on the Alder manic board NEEDE a very substantial raise in emoluments, cash and bennie’s so shut you voted for them you got them so just pay, pay, play even when they don’t even give you the effort to show up every time.

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