A friend of mine tells this joke about the ’86 World Series:
“How many John McNamaras* does it take to change a broken light bulb?”
“Well, this light bulb’s gotten us this far … “
[*Feel free to substitute Grady Little … Or Charlie Baker.]
Put simply: The Baker administration is trading off of past successes and the vision of our predecessors, while failing – refusing! – to prepare for the future. They are emphatically not governing for the long term, particularly in the closely-related areas of transit, climate, and energy. I don’t care what polls say: If you drive a car, or take the T, or bike, in Greater Boston, they haven’t earned your vote.
There is no better example of this than the punting aside of the potential Allston transit hub of West Station until 2040 — in other words, “never”. Former Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi has been venting his disbelief at the failure to make use of this generational opportunity to increase access to transit, providing better, cleaner, more convenient travel options for a big chunk of the region:
THERE ARE OCCASIONS in the making of public policy when you are left scratching your head, because the decision-making just doesn’t make sense, and you wonder what you may be missing.
I’m thinking today of Allston Landing, the vast urban wasteland of industrial, highway, and rail uses that for generations stood as a stark example of the auto-centric mentality of mid-20th Century.
Decisions made over the last 10 years – decisions regarding the state’s purchase of the CSX rail right-of-way from Boston to Worcester, the commencement of intercity rail service to Worcester, and the transformation of Turnpike toll collection from a manual system to an all-electronic system – have made it possible to advance the reclamation of Allston Landing as a key entry point to Boston from the west, a place no longer cut off from its neighboring communities and the Charles River, but rather a vibrant, multi-use, multi-modal 21st Century place.
The various investments I have referred to cost a lot of tax and toll payer money, and we are about to squander every nickel of those hard-earned dollars by doubling down on the mistakes of the past and maintaining Allston Landing as an unpleasant, unattractive, unsustainable example of urban transportation improvements gone wrong.
Yes, a decaying Interstate 90 viaduct needs to come down. But the department should rebuild the highway at grade — translation: on the ground — not overhead. This would save $100 million or more, and would be cheaper to maintain, while leaving open the option of building pedestrian paths, bike lanes, and green spaces across I-90. The state, the City of Boston, and Harvard University — which owns the acreage to be freed up by the I-90 overhaul — should foster a dense new residential and employment center and reconnect parts of town that have been chopped up by highway lanes for half a century.
If we don’t make smart investments now, future generations will wonder: What on earth were they thinking?
No, you’d have to be exceptionally, stubbornly committed to doing things the most unimaginative, sluggardly way in order to miss this opportunity.