The Commonwealth Comment

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Bedford Harbor Cleanup

The Boston Globe is reporting today that the cleanup effort for New Bedford Harbor will be receiving quite the chunk of change. The project could get up to $35 million is federal stimulus funds. That would give New Bedford Harbor the largest slice of the $600 million Superfund pie, which is for various sites around the country. EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson is expected to travel to the Whaling City to make a formal announcement.

The 18,000 acre harbor and surrounding contributaries are heavily polluted with suspected cancer causing agent PCBs and other heavy metals.

Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry have advocated the cleanup of the harbor for decades. So, it came at no surprise that the two wrote letters to Jackson requesting funding for the cleanup.

Congressman Barney Frank, who represents New Bedford also wrote a letter to Jackson requesting similar funding. In an interview I did with Rep. Frank the day after President Obama's Inauguration, he told me about projects he'd like to see in his district....funding to clean New Bedford's Harbor was among them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Boston T Party

The MBTA is the only reasonable mode of transportation for many people. It's convenient, fairly inexpensive, and good for the environment. But there's one overriding problem with the T. It is probably the most grossly mismanaged agency in the Commonwealth! Riders should not be punished with reduced service and increased fares for mistakes made by the T.

The T has seen an dramatic increase in ridership over the last year due to high gas prices. With such high ridership and fares ranging from $1.70 to $2.00, one would think the T would be sitting pretty. You'd be wrong. In fact, the MBTA is facing a $160,000,000 budget deficit. This gap may result in T officials cutting commuter rail service after 7pm, halting all commuter train service on the weekends, hacking away 6 stops along the Green Line. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Riders could even see a 25% increase in fares.

So, the question did the T get into this mess? It all comes back to management or lack thereof for MBTA projects.
New projects for the T are almost all over budget and way over schedule. WCVB reported on the issue back in February. Their investigation found several projects are months and even years behind their scheduled completion dates and all were more than 20% over budget. If the projects were within their budgets and completed on time, it would have saved the agency over $100 million, or more than half its current deficit.

What seems to be even more perplexing is that despite the proposed cuts and overrun budgets, the T still wants to move forward on proposed expansion projects! One of the most contentious proposals is an expansion for the Silver Line. The MBTA's record on such projects has won them more enemies than allies in their endeavor, including Emerson College.

If the MBTA ever wants to be credible in the eyes of its riders, they need to stop and look at themselves in the mirror before passing the burden along to the folks waiting (for what seems like forever) for the squeaky trolley to come around the corner at Boylston Street. The buck stops here MBTA. It's time to get a handle on the projects you have before starting anything new. That's how you got into this mess in the first place.