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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

A cure for the Mass Pike debacle

For those of you that do not live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, here's a bit of history regarding the Mass Turnpike and the financial situation we're currently suffering. Way back when, when money wasn't so tight, people in the Commonwealth were totally and completely sick of sitting in traffic above the city on the most hideous elevated highway ever built. This highway, called the Expressway, divided the city in two, and then sat up in the air rusting away while pretending to be a road, not a parking lot. However, it was a parking lot, especially for the people on the south shore who were trying to get into the city. That was one nasty highway.

The original Central Artery or Southeast Expressway

Then, about 15 years ago someone got a bright idea to remove the elevated expressway and to create the biggest construction project ever attempted in the United States, known collectively as the Big Dig. The highway is now gone, the Big Dig was finally finished a year ago, and guess what? It's a parking lot. OK, it's not as bad as the old highway, but it ain't solving major traffic woes either.

Now, the Big Dig was very very expensive. Like 14.6 BILLION dollars expensive. For a bit over 7 miles of road, tunnels, and bridges. Plus there were a lot of problems. Problems that caused cost overrides. Which in turn cost the taxpayers of the Commonwealth much more money than we had initially been told when the project was planned.

Big Dig Construction was really fun for 10+ years of traffic, dust, and noise.

The Big Dig isn't all bad. In fact, it has totally changed the look and feel of the city of Boston, especially around the waterfront. Before the city was divided into two distinct areas by the central artery (the expressway) and the waterfront was not really available to the people of the city.

The old Central Artery literally dividing the waterfront (left) from the city (right).

When the artery came down, the city had miles and miles of land that was begging to be turned into parks and public spaces, opening up the waterfront and changing the entire feel of that part of the city. The Greenway is a series of parks, fountains, playgrounds and open areas with gorgeous views of the waterfront.


The Rose Kennedy Greenway Parks and the availablilty of the waterfront after the Big Dig

OK, so that's the background. Now, the big issue today is, how the hell does the Commonwealth pay for all the cost increases. We owe big money and we need to pay for our parks and tunnels and bridges. Everyone agrees that we have to pay the money. But we certainly do not agree on how to raise that money.

The Governor has suggested that the tolls on the Mass Pike, the road that goes from Boston to the NY border be raised. Only he wants to raise the prices only from my small city, which is 6 miles from the Statehouse, into the city itself. All those other tolls, the ones that start at the NY border and run more than 100 miles through the western part of the state? Why, we've dismantled those tolls. Why? I have no frigging idea. Stupid stupid idea.


Not only does the Gov want to raise the tolls from my town into the city, he wants to triple the cost of crossing a bridge or using a tunnel. Now, have you ever flown into Boston? Because if you have, you'll notice that the airport is right on the water in East Boston. And to get there you HAVE to go through a tunnel. A tunnel with a proposed fee of $9.00 to just get to the airport. And another $9.00 to get home. Plus, the tolls. Don't forget the tolls. An 8 mile trip could cost over $20 just to use the road.

See that airport? Good luck getting there without going through a tunnel

Guess how pissed off the citizens are? REALLY pissed off. Monumentally pissed off. For people like my friend I, who commute on the Pike every day to and from work, the cost is going to almost triple if this proposed increase becomes law. Who the hell can afford this? Plus, because this surcharge starts in my city, people are going to use our surface streets even more than they already do in order to avoid the tolls. More traffic that our already packed streets cannot take.

The other option is to raise the gas tax, which is fine with me. It would be about $.04/gallon and honestly, how much would we all feel that? It's a lot better than the damn tolls.

But I have a MUCH better idea. Came to me in a lightening bolt tonight after yet another nutsoid SUV driver on the phone almost ran into me because he was too busy chatting. You all know that Boston drivers are supposed to be amongst the worst in the world. I would agree with that. They are TERRIBLE drivers here. Why are they so bad? Because we don't really believe in moving violations here in the Commonwealth. You have to do something incredibly agregeous to warrant a ticket. Like mow someone down. Otherwise, you can drive like a total jackass, and if you have the incredibly misfortune to get caught, the fine is always around $50. Or less.

So I think we ought to do two things. First, we ought to charge the police to actually TICKET those who drive like Massholes. If a moving violation is spotted, ticket the shlub who was doing something wrong. Like talking on a freaking cell phone, drinking coffee, reading a newspaper and driving all at the same time. Oh yeah, not that far off the mark here in the Boston area.

Second, we ought to look at California, a state with excellent and careful drivers, and see what they charge for their tickets. Pedestrian in a crosswalk and you don't stop? $181 big ones. Really. A moving violation like not stopping completely at a stop sign or a yellow light? $370. REALLY. And those are the minimum costs. It only goes up from there. To $3250.00 REALLY!!! Driving in a HOV lane when you're not sharing a car can be, for a first offense violation + court costs could run as high as $590 (depending on what jurisdiction the offender was cited).

Just think how fast we could raise the money to pay for the Big Dig with all the horrible drivers we have here. I think if the police were really diligent and the staties worked the highways for all they can, we'd be raising millions a month. Cause we really suck as drivers and we're never going to learn how to straighten up until we're fined into poverty.

We're cocky here in Boston, and we have never had to follow traffic laws. They're pretty much optional. Just the thought of a massive crackdown would be so awesome. No more left turns from the right lane, my personal bugaboo. God I hate when people do that! No more tailgating so close you want to open the trunk so they can just drive right into your car. No more forgetting what those blinking lights are for on your steering column. No more driving 60 mpg down residential streets or going through red lights just because there's no cop there. No more driving in the opposite lane to make a left turn instead of just waiting for the cars in front of you to go straight.

I'm getting all excited just thinking about it. Opinions?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Ora said...

Great idea!!! Why don't you write it up as at least a letter to the editor and see if it can get a wider distribution.

4/12/08 6:06 PM  
Blogger Carolie said...

I totally agree with your idea. Here in my small town (ok, it's a small town for Japan, but huge to me, at 250,000 people) they have recently raised parking tickets to $250. All of a sudden, we don't have a problem with people double-parking on our insanely narrow roads!

I totally agree that moving violations should cost an arm and a leg. One MUST drive to work. Driving like an asshole is a choice though, and should carry a hefty penalty.

I do have to say though, that for me to drive to the airport, park for two hours and drive home, it will cost me 3 hours and $80 (NOT counting gas!). Or I can decide to spend 6 hours and not pay tolls, but pay almost as much in gas. Or, I can spend $30 and get a round-trip bus or train ticket (and with the train ticket, I get a voucher for 24 hours of parking for $5 at the local train station!)

The bonus to the high tolls is that the expressway is NEVER, even at rush hour, clogged! One choose to pay the toll and drive swiftly, OR one chooses the clogged "free" roads filled with traffic and traffic lights. But if you have no choice other than the expressway to get to work, that does indeed put an unfai burden on a small portion of the population.

I say give out BIG tickets to law violators. Tax unessential choices like cigarettes and booze (and I'm a drinker and a smoker!)

Hope they listen to you!

6/12/08 11:22 AM  

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