Mixed messages on paying for transportation

These numbers from the 106-page report by a group of state senators on transportation in Massachusetts shouldn’t surprise anyone: 80 percent of respondents to a survey don’t think the transportation system in the state is good and more than 90 percent think it should be a higher priority for elected officials.

What may surprise people – and should be taken with a grain of road salt – is the assertion that the majority of respondents would be willing to pay more for an upgraded transit and infrastructure system. While this poll didn’t offer a margin of error for the findings, there was a much more inclusive statewide survey in 2014 that sent a message loud and clear with a zero percent margin of error: The vote for the ballot question repealing the gas index tax that would have added billions to the state transportation fund to finance transportation infrastructure projects and improvements.

The Senate report acknowledges that most of the respondents were people who took the time to come out to the sessions around the state to listen and give their opinions on the state of transportation. There were also members who made social media posts seeking feedback. But those respondents were clearly people who were motivated and have an investment in upgrading rail and roads. That would be a little like asking the board of TransitMatters if they approve an increase in funding for the MBTA.

The report found the most support came for improved rail and bus service, especially in and to western Massachusetts. While the study offered no legislation or blueprint, some of the senators involved said it makes the case for some source of increased funding, perhaps from the so-called “millionaire’s tax.”

“The investment we need to make is not happening,” said Sen. Thomas McGee, Senate chair of the Transportation Committee who said he thinks there needs to be an additional $1 billion a year for the state’s transportation needs.

Many of the report’s proponents said the findings are good news for advocates of high-speed rail between Boston and Springfield.

“Clearly people get the connection between mobility and the economy and access to jobs, which is both important for the economy and important for equity,” said former state transportation Jim Aloisi, a contributor to CommonWealth who helped facilitate the discussions. “They believe in a system funded by everybody.”

But not “everybody” concurs. In addition to the loud message sent by the ballot question, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation also released a report on transportation just hours before the Senate study was unveiled that says money isn’t the panacea for the aging network. The taxpayer report cited the growing impact of climate change on various modes of transportation and said those will cost money as well. The report called for additional study before tossing money at a problem no one has a full grasp on.

“Climate change has emerged as one of the most pressing problems as both a long-term trend and a short-term shock,” the report states. “The state must contend with the impact of more frequent and more severe heat waves, storm surges, floods, heavy rainfall events, sea rises, and their impact on roads, rails, power, signals, tunnels, culverts and more.”



Emotions run high on both sides of Sen. Barbara L’Italien’s right-to-die bill. (Lowell Sun)


Robert Pina was forced to resign from his post as a Brockton Parks commissioner after he made a post on social media criticizing New England Patriots players for kneeling during the national anthem. Pina, who called the mostly black protesting players “turds” and “monkey,” is also being investigated by his bosses at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, where he is a $120,000-a-year employee. (The Enterprise) In West Yarmouth, an outspoken member of that town’s Housing Authority also resigned after he posted an epithet-laden tirade about blacks, Jews, and gays following the Patriots’ protest. (Cape Cod Times)

Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund says zoning changes he intends to propose will spur development in the town and get rid of some of the less desirable places such as some aging budget motels that have outlived their usefulness. (Patriot Ledger)

Fall River officials have reached an agreement with a developer to suspend work that would have built a controversial road across a newly dedicated bike path for which the city granted the contractor an easement. (Herald News)


A Globe editorial says more urgency is needed in the federal government’s response to the devastation in Puerto Rico.

The tax cuts President Trump will begin selling today look a lot like the Reagan-era “trickle-down” policies that many economists have dismissed as ineffective in lifting those on the lower end of the ladder. (Boston Globe)

Renee Graham defends the protests by NFL players, saying we need to confront race issues head-on, while Jeff Jacoby says we should just scrap the practice of hearing the national anthem before sporting events. (Boston Globe)


By a nearly 2-1 margin, Yvonne Spicer, a vice president at the Museum of Science, outdistanced former state representative John Stefanini in the seven-candidate preliminary to become Framingham’s first-ever mayor. The two will face off in November. (MetroWest Daily News)

It will be Marty Walsh vs. Tito Jackson in November’s Boston mayoral final election, as expected, with the first-term mayor racking up 63 percent of the vote in the four-way preliminary to Jackson’s 29 percent. (Boston Globe) Jackson gets the one-on-one race with Walsh he wanted — but that’s about the only good news from the vote, says Joe Battenfeld. (Boston Herald)

Voters also narrowed the field in three Boston district council races that had more than two contenders, including in the district covering South Boston and the South End, where Ed Flynn, son of former mayor Ray Flynn, scored a strong first-place finish with 56 percent of the vote. (Boston Globe)

In Lawrence, the same two candidates who faced each other in the last election for mayor will do so again. Mayor Daniel Rivera came in first in the preliminary with 4,850 votes and former mayor William Lantigua came in second with 3,730. Rivera edged Lantigua in 2013 by 81 votes. (Eagle-Tribune)

In Lowell, city council candidates who favored a downtown site for a new high school did better than those who wanted to build the new facility at Cawley Stadium. The top seven finishers favored a downtown location, even though the council voted 5-4 earlier this year for the Cawley Stadium site. (Lowell Sun)

In Holyoke, incumbent Mayor Alex Morse and former city councilor Jay Ferreira head to the final. (MassLive)

Three declared or would-be candidates for the congressional seat Niki Tsongas is vacating don’t live in the district. (Boston Herald)

Roy Moore, the hard-right former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, defeats incumbent Luther Strange to become the Republican nominee for the US Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. (Time) After the results were in, President Trump deleted tweets he had sent out supporting Strange, including one in which he bragged about Strange climbing in the polls following his endorsement. (New York Times)


Twitter is doubling the number of characters you can type in tweets except those writing in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Worcester, prodded by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren and City Councilor Konstantina Lukes, decides to submit its own bid for the second Amazon headquarters. (Telegram & Gazette) US Rep. Stephen Lynch is touting the former naval station in South Weymouth as an ideal Amazon location. (Boston Herald) Shirley Leung says the various proposed non-Boston sites should get an airing. (Boston Globe)

While the Amazon wooing goes into high gear, the state is taking the retail giant to court to ensure proper collection of sales tax by its vendors. (Boston Globe)

Attorney General Maura Healey has filed suit against a used car dealership with four Massachusetts outlets for predatory sales and lending practices by allegedly jacking up prices and charging high interest to buyers regardless of credit history. (Standard-Times)


Half of Massachusetts elementary and middle school students scored below par on the new state assessment that combines elements of the MCAS test with questions based on the Common Core standards. (Boston Herald)

State education board chairman Paul Sagan defended his $496,000 donation to a pro-charter school group during last year’s heated ballot question campaign, and said he did not publicly disclose the contribution because he thought he’d be accused of using his position to further advance the pro-charter side. (Boston Herald)


Researchers at Boston University say they are getting closer to identifying a biomarker that could be used to reliably diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which currently can only be diagnosed at autopsy. (Boston Globe)


The total bill for the quasi-public Steamship Authority for the July crash of a passenger ferry into a Hyannisport jetty is $1.9 million. (Cape Cod Times)


Great Barrington negotiates a collective electricity rate for the town that will be lower than existing fossil fuel prices — and all of the power will be wind-generated. (Berkshire Eagle)

The New England Fishery Management Council votes not to put any restrictions on whiting fishing. (Gloucester Times)

A rare tropical bird is in grave condition after apparently being blown ashore in Wellfleet by the remnants of Tropical Storm Jose. (Cape Cod Times)


Crime is down in Springfield, according to new FBI data. (MassLive)

A Milford woman was arrested and charged with stealing four bronze doors from a Hopedale church. (MetroWest Daily News)