You may remember that in 2006, a falling ceiling panel killed a driver in the Big Dig. It was a horrifying event, and out of necessity, it was seized upon by the state’s leading politicians. They knew they couldn’t avoid it; they knew the public was roused and angry, and it was an election year. It was a major moment of accountability in an ongoing, chronic scandal, that had finally had fatal results:
“People should not have to drive through the turnpike tunnels with their fingers crossed,” said Mr. Romney, a Republican who is considering running for president. “I don’t think anybody today can feel comfortable driving through those tunnels knowing that the chairman of the turnpike authority has said they were safe, only to have a three-ton section fall down and kill someone.”
Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said that his office considered the tunnel a crime scene, that it was looking into possible criminal charges and that it had subpoenaed people involved in the construction, design, manufacturing and testing of the tunnel materials.
“What we are looking at is anyone who had anything to do with what happened last night,” Mr. Reilly, a Democratic candidate for governor, said. “No one is going to be spared.”
We are all fortunate that no one was in the car that was crushed by falling concrete in the Alewife parking garage. But this is not a case of wasted or misspent money on an ambitious project; this is a scandal of neglect. And like the Big Dig, the authorities were warned, most recently just months ago. Anyone who has parked in the crumbling garage at all knows that this was a danger, and professional consultants have been warning of dangerous deterioration since at least 2011.
“It’s just really a tragedy that they have allowed a facility like this to get in such decrepit shape,” said Edward Strachan, a Groton resident who parks at Alewife three times a week.
… Indeed, in late 2017, a T consultant rated the condition of multiple parts of the garage as risking “imminent failure” and recommended “immediate corrective action,” even though the T had already been completing smaller-scale work on the garage for years.
… Davison, the commuter from Arlington, said the public should have been warned about the consultant’s findings.
“Someone could have gotten seriously hurt,” he said. “They knew since November. Someone should answer for that. Where’s the accountability?”
This is a choice, one that our legislators (and current Governor) have been making for years. No homeowner with any sense insists on “reform before revenue” before repairing a roof that’s reached its age limit. Of course, one examines the options for material and build quality vs. price vs. time; but when it comes time to spend the money to protect your investment, it won’t do to complain about the old roof and its supposed bad quality or wasted money. You just fix it.
Where’s the accountability? As a matter of principle — and not merely political partisanship — accountability is political. What reform did happen during the Patrick administration put the MBTA more under the Executive Branch’s influence (via a Governor-appointed MassDOT board). This was for the purpose of assuring accountability to the public: The governor is answerable.
And under the circumstances, which include Baker’s support for continued austerity funding to the T, extreme skepticism is in order when the Governor takes credit for its supposed progress. The roof is literally caving in; the trains are literally not running on time; it has sprung leaks; it has derailed; it is literally crumbling. Metaphors fail because they’re not even metaphors.
Public transit is a top priority for many reasons. I continue to be mystified how our popular Governor escapes political accountability for its present and predictable future failures.