Tags: ,

Boston—The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is carrying an
“enormous debt burden” and a $2.7 billion backlog of deferred maintenance,
repair and replacement projects that will preclude system expansion, according
to an internal memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER). The MBTA “cannot afford to build” projects such as the proposed
rail line linking Fall River and New Bedford to Boston “without putting
the entire transit system at risk.”
This stark assessment comes in a March 10, 2005 report from the Transit Subcommittee
of the Transportation Finance Commission prepared in preparation for a meeting
this Friday. The report’s conclusions mean that many of the projects outlined
in Governor Mitt Romney’s 20-year transportation plan issued last week
are infeasible.

One clear casualty of this fiscal analysis is the MBTA plan to build the Fall
River/New Bedford rail line. The Transit Subcommittee identified the Fall River/New
Bedford line as the largest un-funded project, carrying a price tag of $850
million – almost $180 million more than Gov. Romney stated it would cost.

“The left hand of the Romney Administration does not know how much change
it is carrying in its right hand,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla
Bennett, whose organization has opposed the Fall River/New Bedford line on both
fiscal and environmental grounds. “The proposed Fall River/New Bedford
line is a fiscal fantasy that Governor Romney has no business endorsing.”

The Transit Subcommittee concludes that the only way new projects could be
financed is through new revenue sources such as highway tolls, earmarking property
or gas taxes and increasing assessments on localities served by transit.

An additional element of concern is that the MBTA is proposing to build the
controversial new Fall River/New Bedford line through the Hockomock Swamp, an
Area of Critical Environmental Concern. As Massachusetts’ largest freshwater
wetland, the Hockomock Swamp is one of the most ecologically important wetlands
in the northeast.

“Bisecting the Hockomock with a commuter rail line would not only be
an environmental disaster, but a financial one as well,” Bennett, a biologist
formerly with EPA, added. “MBTA’s own analyses of projected ridership
show that it would be cheaper to transport each commuter in his or her own limousine
than it would be to build and maintain this line.”


the report from the Transit Subcommittee of the Transportation Finance Commission

at the Governor’s 20-year transportation plan

the PEER analysis of the Fall River/New Bedford line (Science Derailed: The
Hockomock Swamp Heads for Ecological Trainwreck)

Phone: 202-265-7337

962 Wayne Avenue, Suite 610
Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

Copyright 2001–2024 Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility

PEER is a 501(c)(3) organization
EIN: 93-1102740