MASSPIRG comments on Governor Patrick’s “The Way Forward: A 21st Century Transportation Plan”

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L to R: Beverly Scott, General Manager of the MBTA, and Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG’s Executive director at Monday’s event.

On January 14, MASSPIRG was invited to attend an event at U Mass Boston at which Governor Patrick unveiled a bold vision for the future of transportation in the Commonwealth. “The Way Forward: A 21st Century Transportation Plan” calls for $1.02 billion in new revenue per year on average for the next ten years and kicks off the long needed debate about our transportation system’s future.

The Governor pointed out that economic growth and opportunity depend upon investment in transportation that serves residents across the Commonwealth. As he said at the event, “If we are serious about improving our transportation system for a generation, then we have to be willing to make the necessary investments.” The report highlighted unfunded projects in every corner of the commonwealth from the Berkshires to the Cape. The Governor made clear that to fix and modernize our transportation network we need new sources of revenue.

And we do need to do both: fix and modernize. The consequences of inaction are grave. The Massachusetts transportation system is struggling under the unsustainable burden of billions of dollars of debt and deferred maintenance. For too long, we’ve relied on borrowing to operate and maintain our transportation system. This is like using a credit card to pay for your groceries and your mortgage. If we don’t act, we’ll sit in traffic more, breathe dirtier air, and face continued service cuts and drastic fare hikes on public transportation.

But it’s not just a matter of fixing what’s broken. We need to seize this moment and bring the Commonwealth into the 21st century. In the early 20th century, we had the foresight and the vision to build America’s first subway. It transformed our economy, our culture, our place in history. We are at a similar moment now, and it calls for a big investment in our future. We can connect the Commonwealth, revitalize our state, and put ourselves back on the map as a modern and forward-thinking state by pursuing transportation expansion and new projects that will all bring new opportunities.

MASSPIRG and our allies in the statewide coalition Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) look forward to a robust debate and a bold commitment to a new transportation future. It will soon be up to the legislature to take immediate and bold action to move our transportation system out of debt and disrepair and into the 21st century.