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Massachusetts Transportation Challenges Mirrored Nationwide

This article is more than 10 years old.

By Meghna Chakrabarti (The Third Rail)

Yes, it's true we've got the Big Dig and its associated billions of dollars of debt. Few other cities can make a similar claim to infamy. Nevertheless, Massachusetts isn't alone when it comes to dealing with a creaking, crumbling, cash-strapped transportation infrastructure. A couple of national stories this week illustrate the shared misery.

NPR gets inside the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB's 402 employees investigate more than 1,500 transportation accidents a year. However, as NPR points out:

The NTSB's recommendations do not have the force of law — and many are ignored. That was the case with an earlier recommendation that Washington's Metro system pull from service the older type of train cars involved in last week's crash.

In Boston, the NTSB had no power to enforce changes after a text-messaging MBTA operator crashed a Green Line train. It was up to the T to create and enforce what's now one of the strictest driver cell phone bans in the nation.

And when it comes to the trouble with transportation financing overall, just think of Massachusetts's funding crisis writ large, and voila, you've got the heated debate over the federal Highway Trust Fund. NPR's Audie Cornish reports:

The Highway Trust Fund is almost out of money and current law is about to expire. Lawmakers in the House want to pass a six-year, $500 billion plan to improve congested highways, crumbling bridges and under-funded mass transit. But Senate lawmakers are siding with the Obama administration in calling for a less expensive, 18-month stopgap bill.

Let's play a little transportation Mad Libs, shall we? Take the above, feed it through a Bay State localizer, and you get:

The Massachusetts transportation system/Massachusetts Turnpike Authority/MBTA is almost out of money, and current funding sources are about to expire. Governor Deval Patrick wants to pass a 19-cent per gallon gas tax plan to improve congested highways, crumbling bridges and under-funded mass transit. But Beacon Hill legislators are calling for a less expensive, stopgap increase in the state sales tax.

Both local and national lawmakers agree, however, that the transportation system is going broke. They also agree there's no politically expedient way to fix it.

This program aired on June 30, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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