Baker Reluctant To Discuss Additional Transportation Financing

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Gov. Charlie Baker addresses the  Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Gov. Charlie Baker addresses the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

All week the public has been hating on public transportation. Many say Boston's aging system needs more money, but Gov. Charlie Baker is reluctant to talk about money yet.

The governor has stuck to the same talking points around this week's MBTA woes.

"We're gonna be working really hard on this issue over the course of the next few weeks to put together a plan to make sure that we solve some of these problems," Baker said Wednesday.

That's more or less the message he delivered again Thursday morning at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce meeting, where business leaders asked if his administration intended to revive the conversation about more investment in transportation infrastructure.

"Everybody always wants to spend more money on everything, I get that, OK? I want to spend some time talking about this before we just automatically hit the revenue button," Baker said.

"I think everybody in this room knows you don't solve problems simply by throwing money at things," said Chamber President Paul Guzzi, who was quick to let the governor know that, from where he stands, money is part of the answer. "I also think that everybody knows that when you have a very old infrastructure, you have to spend some money from some place."

And that's a sentiment expressed earlier this week by Charlie Chieppio when he spoke to WBUR's All Things Considered. Chieppo is a fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School and he's written about the T.

"I'm telling you as somebody who's certainly not a tax-and-spend kind of guy, there is not much doubt that to really make this work the way we want it to work, there is some new money that's going to be needed," Chieppio said.

The MBTA says its current maintenance backlog is around $5 billion, so in order to update signal systems and cars to handle future storms it would need at least that much money.

But Baker doesn't throw out revenue estimates like that. And analysts say his hesitation is understandable — he doesn't want to get dragged into a revenue conversation until he has more information.

"I don't think we have an easy solution on the revenue side," said Steve Poftak, executive director of the Rappaport Institute. "I think the fear is new revenue will go to expanding the current system in a way that will continue to neglect the maintenance."

Experts say there is no quick fix, that the T's equipment is way past its shelf life.

As for Baker and his transportation plans, he says he will "have more to say about that in a couple of weeks."

This segment aired on February 5, 2015.


Asma Khalid Reporter
Asma Khalid formerly led WBUR's BostonomiX, a biz/tech team covering the innovation economy.



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