Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Globe's McNamara in Bizarro World

Globe columnist Eileen McNamara writes today that now, with the city paralyzed by gridlock after last week's tunnel collapse is the perfect time to get commuters more interested in investing in public transit. McNamara apparently lives in some kind of Bizarro world where after someone is killed by a poorly managed public works project, the public is ready for another one. From her column:

Skyrocketing gas prices and the collapse of ceiling panels in the Interstate 90 connector could give fresh political impetus to a plan floated last spring by mass transit advocates to invest $2 billion in transportation construction and expansion projects. The money would come from existing tax revenue and new fees on everything from hotels to rental cars.

It sounded implausible in May. But the gridlock of the last week might have cooled the fevered antitax climate that has doomed so many initiatives for the communal good in the past 25 years...
I'm not so sure. I'm afraid that the opposite dynamic will come into play. People are angry, and angry people don't want to put even more money into a new project that could end up causing just as many problems as the CA/Tastrophe. McNamara forgets that residents of the state that do not have to commute into Boston (yes, there are such people) are not going to want to have anything to do with another expensive public works project for a long time. I, for one, would rather sit in my car than give Beacon Hill hacks another opportunity to line their pockets until they can prove to me that they've cleaned up their act. I am certainly no antitax crusader, so if even I am thinking that way, there's no way there's any public appetite for further tranportation investment right now, despite all the gridlock.

It's not about whether extending the Blue line or building the North Station-South Station rail link are good ideas. It's about whether state residents will trust anyone on Beacon Hill to effectively manage and oversee a public works project ever again. After the scandals, inaction and outright lies of the past 15 years, from where I sit the answer is 'not likely'.