Editorial: Transit plan a good start

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

With the state looking at a $19 billion gap between expected revenues and what it takes to repair and maintain Massachusetts roads and rails over the next two decades, the $4.8 billion transportation plan announced this week by Gov. Deval Patrick has to be thought of as a step in the right direction. Patrick's plan has the added benefit of leveraging federal transportation dollars: Just $2.9 billion of the total will come from state funds.

But it must be noted that the $19 billion figure the Transportation Finance Study Commission arrived at did not include any new projects, while Patrick's plan includes such big-ticket items as a downpayment on extending commuter rail service to New Bedford, extending the Green Line to Medford, the Blue Line to Lynn and connecting the Red and Blue lines in Boston.

Despite loud complaints from MetroWest about transportation funding, the initial reports on Patrick's plan offer nothing for this region. If you look hard between the lines, using a rose-colored magnifying glass, you might guess that maybe a MetroWest community could qualify for some of the money earmarked for commuter parking.

Maybe some of the money set aside for unspecified transit-oriented development, regional transit authorities or local bridge projects could land here. But we see no mention of funding to improve service on the Framingham commuter rail line, no money for major MetroWest road or rail projects, and certainly no money for Mass. Pike toll relief.

It should also be noted that this, like recent Patrick initiatives on housing and conservation, is based on borrowed money. There's nothing wrong with bonding for capital improvements, but if, as Patrick argues, we are faced with a legacy of neglect by 16 years of Republican governors, it is disingenuous to think we can borrow our way back to health.

The Transportation Finance Study Commission recommended serious reforms to save money in the transportation budget and significant increases in the gas tax and tolls to raise the money that is needed. Patrick's plan may be a step in the right direction, but it's far from the bold initiative our crumbling roads, bridges and public transportation systems require.