Earmark amendments filed for bond bill

Lawmakers push for projects in their districts

With the state House of Representatives expected to debate a transportation bond bill on Wednesday, lawmakers from both parties filed amendments earmarking state funds for projects in their districts.

More than 200 amendments to the bond bill were submitted by Tuesday afternoon, including a provision to spend $1 million on new sidewalks in West Bridgewater, submitted by Brockton Democrat Rep. Christine Canavan; $3 million to reconstruct an intersection in Attleboro, submitted by Attleboro Republican Rep. George Ross, and an unspecified amount of money for the study, design, and construction of a new bridge across the Merrimack River in Tyngsborough, submitted by Rep. Colleen Garry, a Democrat of Dracut.

State Rep. David Linsky, Democrat of Natick, submitted 14 amendments, including one for a new $20 million parking garage in downtown Natick, an amendment for $10 million to reconstruct the Natick MBTA station, and $14 million for the reconstruction of Route 27 in Natick. Linsky said his earmarks are needed for economic development purposes or “are necessary transportation improvements.”

State Rep. Christopher Fallon, Democrat from Malden, made no apologies for the earmarks he has submitted – totaling about $6 million, according to his estimate. Among them is an amendment to spend $2.5 million to reconstruct Route 99 in Malden, and $1.35 million to complete the Northern Strand Community Bike Trail through Malden.

Fallon admitted that the amendments could be considered pork, but said they are paid for from “overall money that should have been funded through Chapter 90 in past years,” Fallon said, referring to a state road improvement program.

“I feel obligated that I’ve got to get this money into my district for infrastructure purposes,” Fallon said. “I need to fight for the city of Malden.”

State Rep. Geoff Diehl, Republican of Whitman, inserted two amendments, one of which would rename the Whitman MBTA station in honor of former Republican State Senator Ned Kirby. The other amendment seeks funding for a cost analysis on the implementation of new sound barriers on Route 18 near a residential neighborhood in Abington.

Diehl said he doesn’t think either of his amendments should be considered earmarks, noting the cost for each is minimal. He said he doesn’t see the amendments “as a spending issue.” Because the state only takes up a transportation bond bill every few years, Diehl said he saw it as an opportunity to fund transportation projects for local communities.

Diehl said renaming the MBTA station for Kirby would only require the one-time cost of new signage at the station, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation would still officially refer to it as Whitman station. Diehl said Kirby deserves recognition because he played an integral role in getting a train line to Whitman.

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Justin Thompson, Diehl’s legislative aide, said Route 18 is a state road that has been widened in the past few years. Thompson said the state should foot the cost of mitigating the impact of that road expansion to area residents, who have had to put up with more noise and other issues.

“This is simply requesting that the Department of Transportation come up with a plan and determine the cost,” Thompson said. “We’re just requesting that this particular stretch (of road) be given some attention,” he said.

Homepage photo by Dave Levy and published under a Creative Commons license.