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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.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Doing my civic duty

Tonight my friend and I traveled west to attend the second of four meetings regarding the turnpike authority's proposed raising of the tolls from my city into Boston, as well as the bridge and tunnel tolls.

Currently a trip from my city, 6 miles due west of the center of Boston, and bordering Boston on 3 different sides, costs $1.25 in tolls on the Mass Pike. The pike is the only toll road into Boston, so that commuters from the north and south of the city can drive in for free, but we're the only folks who have to pay a daily toll. The proposed toll increase would bring the fee up to $2.00 each way, costing the average commuter an extra $1040/year. Additionally, the current tunnel fee of $3.50 for both ways would be raised to $7.00, so that a trip from my house to the airport would now cost $9.00.

Hundreds of people attended the meeting from all over "metro west" and other parts of the greater metropolitan area. The first speakers were all state representatives and they were uniformly outraged that their constituants were going to continue to be punished when nobody else in the entire commonwealth even pays tolls. I was astounded by how well prepared they were, how eloquent each speaker was, and how they were aware of how this proposed toll hike would affect the residents of "metro west" as well as East Boston.

After many different legislators spoke, the average citizens were also allowed to speak. Of the hundreds of people that showed up, only one person was against removing the tolls. So many citizens from so many towns talked to the Turnpike Authority representatives and explained why this toll hike would be a severe hardship to them. One woman talked about her mother in Revere in an elderly housing situation that required the daughter to visit at least 3 times/week to help out with shopping, doctors appts, etc. The proposed hike would cost this woman $45/week just to go help her mother out. Many people talked about how unfair and inequitable this toll hike is, that only a few people would be required to pay for everyone else in the Commonwealth.

When it was my turn to speak, I got up and talked about how my disability wages come to a startlingly low $8.65/hour, and one trip to the airport would cost me more than an hour's 'pay'. I talked about how my city would be so negatively affected as people pulled off the highway at our city rather than to pay the tolls, and would use our streets, polluting out air, and expecting our very broke city to pay the cost of road repair. I explained how more people would use Rt 9 to get into the city, a road that is already so overcrowded that ambulances cannot get through the traffic to get to the major hospitals. I said that this was a life and death situation and that the turnpike reps would be responsible for deaths if they pushed more cars onto our secondary roads.

They only let us speak for 2 minutes, and I didn't go over my time, but I was pleased that I had spoken with great passion and that I made it clear that their proposals were not only unfair to the commuters, but to all the people of our city who would be the most negatively affected by even more traffic on our already overburdened streets.

I can't say that the turnpike reps heard every word said tonight, but they heard me. I pointed right at the head of the Turnpike Authority and blamed him for the situation he's gotten us into. I looked him right in the eye and made sure he heard me say that if deaths occured due to increased traffic in our city, he was responsible.

We'll know in January whether or not this insane proposal goes through. There is one more citizen's meeting in Worcester on January 7th, and I encourage anyone who feels strongly about this proposal to go and speak out. Give your testimony and know that you worked to fight this governmental agency. We all need to raise our voices in protest!

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