The Codcast: Why is our infrastructure always crumbling?

Most transportation advocates focus on the need for more money, but Chuck Marohn comes from a different starting point, asking why the system needs more money in the first place. The one thing Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem to agree on is that the country should invest in its infrastructure. But Marohn asks why the nation’s infrastructure, and particularly its transportation infrastructure, has been allowed to deteriorate so badly?

Marohn, the founder and president of Minnesota-based Strong Towns, says that all too often infrastructure gets built with little or no thought as to how it will be maintained down the road.

He places most of the blame on the way infrastructure projects are financed from the top down, with gas taxes or sales tax revenues.

He feels transportation projects should be financed more at the local level by those who benefit financially (think value capture), while the cost of maintaining a subway or bus system should be paid by fares. It sounds good in principle, but it’s hard to see how it would work in today’s already-built-out environment.

Today’s Codcast was produced by TransitMatters, the transportation advocacy group, in conjunction with CommonWealth. Marohn was interviewed by Josh Fairchild and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters.



The state wants to cut off its funding to the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the ribbon of Boston parkland that has transformed the area above the run of I-93 submerged underground by the Big Dig. (Boston Globe) It marks the latest chapter in a long-running threat from state leaders — here is a CommonWealth feature story from five years ago teeing up many the same arguments being made today.


The finger-pointing between Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on responsibility for the opioid crisis subsided on Thursday after the two conferred by phone. (Eagle-Tribune) Rivera and Sununu both issued statements after the phone call. Rivera may have been too hasty in issuing his statement; it was riddled with grammatical and word-choice errors. (CommonWealth) Gov. Charlie Baker says it’s time to stop the blame game on opioids. (State House News)

The Dudley Zoning Board of Appeals approves modified plans for a Muslim cemetery. (Telegram & Gazette)

Shrewsbury begins exploring whether to build a water treatment facility after discovering trace elements of chromium in well water. (Telegram & Gazette)

A proposal to discuss making Quincy a “sanctuary city” is doomed after seven of nine city councilors say they will vote against the measure. (Patriot Ledger)

Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter, who voted against the medical marijuana question on the ballot in 2012, said he’s changing his mind about his stance, helped somewhat by the city receiving a $50,000 check from the dispensary that opened up in 2015. (The Enterprise)


Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from investigations involving ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government but insists he did not have foreign relations with that country. (U.S. News & World Report) The entire Massachusetts congressional delegation has called for Sessions to resign. (Associated Press) The Herald says recusal was the right move — and then renews its call for a special prosecutor completely independent of the AG’s office to direct an investigation.

Who is Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador at the center of the administration problems? (New York Times)

Vice President Mike Pence used his personal email for state business when he was governor of Indiana — and he was hacked. (Indianapolis Star)

Trying to figure out where Trump is going on immigration policy? Good luck. (Boston Globe)

The Republican effort to craft a replacement for the Affordable Care Act is turning into an Inspector Clouseau-worthy comedy, as skeptical Democratic and Republican members of Congress try to hunt down draft legislation that some say is being hidden away in a basement location in the Capitol. (Boston Herald)

US Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey urge Sessions to back off on cracking down on states that have legalized marijuana. (MassLive)

Former Utah attorney general John Swallow is acquitted of a series of bribery charges, resolving one of the biggest political scandals in state history. (Associated Press)


William Lantigua, the former mayor and state rep from Lawrence, is back in Massachusetts after a year in the Dominican Republic. The 62-year-old pol returned with his 24-year-old girlfriend (they left their 1-year-old daughter behind until winter ends) and says he is ready to reclaim the mayor’s office. He even seems to have a new attitude toward the press, inviting a reporter into his pickup truck to do an interview. (Eagle-Tribune)


A new study finds that revenues from athletic events for charities such as walks and runs dropped for the fourth straight year, though those events remain a key source of funds for nonprofits. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)


A proposal by Mashpee officials to severing ties with Cape Cod Regional Technical High School over its share of costs for a new school project has triggered concern from the other 11 towns in the district over the future of the school and the project. (Cape Cod Times)

A confidential agreement between the Framingham School Committee and former superintendent Stacy Scott, who effectively left the position last summer, kept him on the payroll for his $223,000 salary through May of this year and retains his health benefits. The agreement, which was pried loose by a public records request from the MetroWest Daily News, also carefully lays out the public handling of the separation.

Forty-nine Boston schools are facing budget cuts because of shrinking enrollment. (Boston Herald)


North Shore Medical Center plans layoffs and budgets cuts to deal with a $45 million budget shortfall. (Salem News)


More than one-quarter of the MBTA’s 7,000-plus workers earned more than $100,000 last year, but that’s actually a drop from the previous year, when snowmageddon drove up overtime costs. (Boston Globe)

US Rep. Michael Capuano wants to the T to offer temporary free service on the Fairmount commuter rail line in order to drive up awareness of and ridership on the route. (Dorchester Reporter)

A Herald editorial urges fiscal caution as various transit expansion plans get floated, including the North-South Rail Link, high-speed trains service between Springfield and Boston, and daily commuter rail service to Foxborough.


Barnstable County, in a suit brought by the town of Barnstable seeking $6.5 million in damages over water contamination from chemicals at the firefighting training academy, claims the blame should be spread out to others, including a land trust, the county’s fire district, and Entergy, which trained specialists from the Pilgrim nuclear power plant at the site. (Cape Cod Times)

High winds around the state Thursday brought down trees and power lines, knocking out power to more than 40,000 homes. (MetroWest Daily News)

A Truro campground already on shaky ground after clear-cutting 11 acres of land inside a protected area of the Cape Cod National Seashore is facing a further hurdle in its quest to reopen after officials say the action threatened the habitat of the Eastern box turtle, which is listed as a “species of special concern.” (Cape Cod Times)

We don’t have a category for ritualistic animal rites, so we’ll just tuck here the video that’s gone viral of a flock of wild turkeys circling a dead cat on a Randolph street. (Boston Globe)


Wynn Resorts is dramatically cutting its planned retail space at the company’s Everett casino, but says replacing high-end retail with more restaurant space will actually boost employment numbers. (Boston Herald)


Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper is trying to get everyone — citizens and lawmakers alike — on the same team. (CommonWealth)

Partners at Thornton Law Firm could face criminal prosecution as state campaign finance regulators kick to the attorney’s general office the evidence they’ve gathered that the Boston firm was reimbursing lawyers and their spouses for campaign donations. (Boston Globe)

It’s always about the pension: Suspended Suffolk County Register of Probate Felix Arroyo, who has send out a fundraising appeal to help his legal defense against still-unspecified charges from Trial Court administrators, would double his lifetime annual pension if he able to retain his post and finish out the six-year term. (Boston Globe)


Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan says while plenty of TV talking heads seemed to gush over President Trump’s ability to — in the words of Will Oremus of Slate — “speak for an entire hour without sounding like an unhinged demagogue,” journalists kept digging at the substantive stories that continue to dog the new administration.