What a week for transportation in Massachusetts! Governor Patrick released hard numbers on the cost to fix and modernize our transportation system and a plan for building a 21st century transportation system. Governor Patrick passionately reminded us how transportation moves our economy and can improve our daily lives.
The clear consensus, across the spectrum of opinion from left to right, is that our transportation system must be better funded to ensure our state’s prosperity. While people may disagree about how to pay for it, no one doubts we need new revenues.
The truth is, if we do not invest in transportation in every part of the state, we will be paying a LOT more in the future. Just like someone who puts off fixing a leaking roof, we pay more each year that we delay fixing our roads and rails. If we don’t act, fares, tolls and vehicle fees will go up significantly next year.
We’re at a historic moment. Transportation is the top agenda item for the governor and the legislature. For the first time in my memory, we have a real opportunity to fix a major problem that has been dogging the Commonwealth for decades.
We can’t allow the heated rhetoric around taxes knock us off course. No tax or fee is popular. But neither are potholes and traffic or lost jobs and opportunity. All agree: we have an urgent need to stablize the finances of the system and fix and modernize our network. We ask legislators to keep all potential sources of revenue on the table and fully explore them.
We also need to be realistic about what’s needed to create a generational fix for transportation. I’ve heard some say that the Governor’s plan is too much. His plan is almost completely dedicated to debt relief, filling deficits and fixing up what is falling apart. To describe this as ambitious is sad.
We can’t just fix what we have and expect to be globally competitive. A truly ambitious plan would make many more investments than proposed in the Governor’s plan. We’d look at Asia and out West for inspiration. We’d electrify our commuter rail system. We’d criss-cross the state with new rail and bikepaths. The Governor’s plan makes modest new investments throughout the state, but it is by no stretch ambitious. His ideas begin to move our state’s transportation into the 21st century, but more could be done.
Recent editorials in papers across the state are calling for more transportation investment. Check out the New Bedford Standard Times, The Springfield Republican, and the Berkshire Eagle. These regions understand that better transportation will spark the local economy. More buses and rail, downtown sidewalks, and free-flowing roads bring economic opportunity. Not just for us, but for future generations.
Years from now, people will hopefully look back on this week and say that we did the right and courageous thing by funding the transportation system we all need.