EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

February 26, 2009

Urgent action needed on transportation

Our transportation system is the lifeblood of the Bay State economy, not to mention a huge factor impacting our environment and quality of life. If we can't get employees to work on time and safely move goods and services, we're in trouble. And this is exactly the problem we're moving toward today.

Across Massachusetts our transportation network has a funding deficit, estimated at $15 billion to $19 billion over 20 years. This gap will impact every state resident as our roads and bridges deteriorate and public transit is reduced.

While "sky is falling" prognostications can be unproductive, one unfortunate commuter on Storrow Drive last month discovered this to be true when a chunk of concrete fell from an underpass and crashed through the rear windshield.

Others encounter our disinvestment in transportation by the potholed roads that cause an estimated $718 million in auto repairs for Massachusetts drivers.

Meanwhile, public transit users on the MBTA face a 25 percent fare increase and 50 percent off-peak service cut. Imagine Beantown coping with half the number of Green Line trolleys after an evening Red Sox game. Or the congestion caused by a commuter rail system more expensive than parking in downtown Boston.

The solutions to this problem, however, are clear — a combination of cost saving reforms, agency streamlining, and new revenue. The recent proposal by Gov. Deval Patrick includes many of these elements, as well as an equitable distribution of transportation dollars across the state in the form of dedicated gas tax to road and rail projects outside Greater Boston, and improved funding for the 15 regional transportation authorities that many low-income individuals beyond Route 128 rely on.

But we must remember that the economic growth created and sustained by a well-maintained road, bridge and rail network benefits everyone. For example, the sales tax that helps fund the MBTA, fuels the economy of Greater Boston, which in turn generates 50 percent of the state's jobs and 73 percent of the population. The income and business taxes on this growth are then distributed across the state to fix roads from Pittsfield to Provincetown.

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