GLX and Statewide Vision

May 11, 2016

The Green Line Extension (GLX) vote on May 9 by the MassDOT Board and the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board was a milestone for this important project. Though there are still many remaining steps, including the need to fund the whole project to Route 16 and a complete community path extension, it appears that we are moving toward a responsible, funded plan for this legally mandated and essential transportation link. 

We appreciate and honor the sacrifices of the cities of Somerville and Cambridge for recommending significant local funding, an unprecedented commitment. We thank the MassDOT and MBTA board members for their responsible votes to move GLX forward.

The GLX debate as a signature expansion is playing out in the shadow of a transit system that’s in recovery mode. Along with building the system we need, it’s a priority to repair and maintain today’s MBTA, because reliability and public confidence in our transportation network is a necessity.

With limited funding, we simply can’t pay for all of the “state of good repair” investments needed to bring the MBTA up to par, and the major capacity upgrades needed to move people and fuel tomorrow’s economy.  

The real choice is not between maintenance and expansion, but whether or not we will make the comprehensive investments needed to secure our future.

The GLX debate is the largest example, but it’s certainly not unique in our state’s transportation system. For every investment that is funded in the new five-year capital plan, many more are left waiting.

To bridge the funding, the legislature and local communities are considering policies such as enabling local transportation funding referendums and legislation to further enable value capture. These are necessary, but should not preclude a statewide funding debate, as we have far more transportation projects in the pipeline than we can currently fund even with these additional funding mechanisms.

What we can afford today is just not sufficient for the state’s future. We – all of us – are building our legacy, and it is past time for a unifying vision of transportation that will meet our needs, supported by the commitment and the funding to make this vision a reality.

An achievable vision for mobility is critical for our commonwealth. The status quo is clearly not enough.

If we aspire to greatness, then we must have a clear vision that reflects our values as a commonwealth, and which will be a solid foundation for the reforms, the revenue, the innovations and the transformations needed to mobilize Massachusetts for coming generations.

Vision is not words and pictures on paper. It’s a roadmap. It’s what has helped Utah, Louisiana, Chicago and other regions set priorities and make decisions. We can do that, if we take the Governor at his word to “Be Great, Massachusetts!" 

This is not just about more money. It’s about our priorities across the state, and the connections we make within and between our communities. It’s about anticipating innovation, not being reactive. It’s about creating a future for transportation in Massachusetts through a process in which everyone has a say. It means creating a mobility plan for the public and state leaders to get behind and move forward.

Traffic, public transportation, cycling and walking concerns are top of mind for our 6 million people. So let’s get to work on a unifying vision and start building the support for the reforms, investments, and services Massachusetts will need to thrive in the decades to come.


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