Both the governor and the Legislature have made transportation a centerpiece this year, and while there have been disagreements on the scope and details, there is unity in the goals and the necessity.
We know the costs of kicking the can down the road. We only have one chance to get this right. If we do, we will have the 21st-century transportation system we need. If we don’t, we will be facing a similar problem in just a few years, when it will come with an even-heftier price tag.
So let’s talk about the price tag. Many have spoken about the perils of raising taxes to pay for transportation, and no one understands that better than elected local leaders. In an economy still on the brink of recovery, this is not an easy vote.
But there is also a price to pay for doing too little and failing to invest enough money to meet our real needs. There is a price to deferring maintenance: delays and safety. There is a price to borrowing for operations: interest payments on future budgets. There is a price to asking future toll payers and MBTA riders to shoulder too high a cost: We will be left with a transportation system we simply cannot afford. And most of all, there is a price for setting our sights too low: Without adequate funding to fix and modernize our statewide transportation network, we will not attract the private-sector jobs and investment needed to grow our economy, here on the North Shore and throughout the Bay State.
We have two major requests of the transportation bill conference committee: First, make sure that there is enough money to fix our problems, including local roads, and second, make sure that there is enough money that we’re not paying twice — in both higher taxes and in higher tolls and fees.