The Governor released his transportation plan today. He held the release in a large hall at UMass Boston and it was packed. The level of interest reflects a recognition of the significance of the plan.
Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey gave an excellent presentation of the plan and the Governor followed with a strong speech putting the plan in broad perspective as critical to the future growth in the state. At this point, there is a strong consensus in the business community that a substantial increase in transportation investment is critical and the plan contemplates that — essentially $1 billion per year over the next 10 years together with some future indebtedness.
We will all be trying to assess the plan more deeply over the weeks to come, but my initial reaction is very positive. I believe that it is in the right middle ground. It is not as ambitious as many of us would like. It does not tackle some long-discussed transportation projects – the Urban Ring, the North South Rail Link, the Blue Line extension. However, it does include a number of smaller expansions of the system and makes a huge investment in reliability and capacity improvement. I was glad to see the new cars and power systems that can increase Green Line throughput specifically referenced and included in the funding total. I think it sets stretch goals, but achievable goals for the next decade. We should keep talking about the longer vision, but this plan hits the right level for the next ten years.
I also perceive the plan to be well balanced geographically and by mode of transportation — the plan does a good job at including a wide range of priorities and therefore has a good chance of achieving support. Journalist Jon Keller asked the Governor why people should have confidence that the plan won’t be like the Big Dig and grow radically in cost. The Governor and Secretary Davey assured the audience of their consciousness of cost control. An additional point that they could have made is that the plan is a diversified portfolio of projects. The Big Dig was one monster project that went wrong, partially because of its unmanageable size. The current proposal is made up of much more manageable pieces. A few pieces may not work out well, but overall, I think we can expect to see the numbers stay fairly close to plan.