, Salem, MA

June 6, 2013

Our view: Half of road dollars won't help cities, towns

The Salem News

---- — The adage tells us that half a loaf is better than none.

But that’s not the case when it comes to road and infrastructure money for local cities and towns, too much of which is still tied up on Beacon Hill.

While the Legislature has approved the $300 million worth of aid earmarked for local street, bridge and sidewalk projects across the state, the governor has thus far agreed to release only half of it while lawmakers continue to hash out specifics of an overall long-term transportation funding plan. And while that may, in theory, mean that cities and towns should get half of what they’re expecting — Salem expected to receive $1.31 million; Peabody, $1.92 million; Beverly, $1.54 million and Danvers $1.38 million — half of the money won’t cover the kind of work the North Shore communities need to carry out while the construction season is in full swing.

More practically, consider this: Does this half allocation mean Beverly Public Works Director Mike Collins should dive into half the scheduled street and sidewalk work scheduled — and leave the rest for another year, if the added money doesn’t come through? Or should he and the DPW plow through all of the projects as much as possible, cutting corners at every turn because they might have to be done at half the cost?

Neither choice is good, neither would be fair to residents, and the governor’s office should recognize that.

“Funding delays over the past two years have stalled many projects and prevented others from beginning at all,” said Salem Public Works Director David Knowltown, who is also president of the Massachusetts Highway Association. “These delays end up costing communities throughout Massachusetts millions of dollars in more costly work in the future, and are not representative of smart long-term policy.”

We agree. The North Shore’s communities need and deserve their full loaves of highway aid — now.