Monday, October 3, 2011

Downtown Boston and the Price we pay for Crumbling Roads

It was September again and time for my bi-yearly trip home to Boston.  When I visited two years ago after a long absence I went with an open mind.  The Big Dig was almost finished and it was time to take a ride through it for the first time. To say I was mildly disjointed would be an understatement that compares with putting a band aid on a severed limb.  There had already been a motorist killed in one of the tunnels a few years back when the alleged state of the art constuction caused a piece of the ceiling to collapse. And we won't even discuss the massive leaks that are pouring millions of gallons of water into the main tunnel, which now brings me to the main topic, "infrastructure".

The road and bridges around the Boston area have always been an Achilles heals of sorts with the foot deep potholes, exposed rebar, rusted and rotting steel bridges and one of my old time favorites "Rotaries”.  For those of you who don't know what a rotary is I will try to explain. It is a circular island with a road around it that is fed cars from four or more points that converge into a one or two lane circle to which you fight or merge with other oncoming traffic and then exit when you have reached your exit point from this circular monstrosity.  Too much for you to understand?  Google "Rotaries" and see for yourself.  Just for the record, we “stole” the idea from Europe where they are known as “Roundabouts”

Viewing the aforementioned bridges and tunnels, you have to wonder with all the traffic that travels over, under, around and through them, how they have stayed in place for all these years. I think that it has something to do with the road gods that protect us from the potential projectiles that could fall down upon us or drop from below us but I could be wrong.  I am still a little mystified about the gravity thing but you get my point.

Recently, President Obama decided to make a campaign stop alongside a bridge that connects Kentucky and Ohio, and which also happens to be the home states of House Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell.  This was not a coincidence. This so called stunt was staged to bring home the point that this piece of our infrastructure was in need of replacement. It was also part of his appeal to sell his $447 billion dollar jobs bill that will put Americans back to work. The bizarre part of this story is that there are no funds in this bill to replace "this particular bridge" which by the way is going to be replaced by 2021. (That’s ten years folks).

We all know that the infrastructure is in this country is in critical need of repair. This is a no brainer.  But we have to think back to the stimulus bill in 2009 that what supposed to do the same thing, yet only 6% of this $900 Billion bill was used for this purpose.  With this kind of money you could have fixed a lot of roads and bridges.  What happened to this money?  Why are we doing this dog and pony show again?

Now I return back to the Boston problem.  I don't know if the President is aware of the goings on around Boston being that it is one of his bedrock blue states but be rest assured that he will probably win Massachusetts in 2012 so why bother visiting.  But unlike Ohio being a swing state, he will probably be spending lots of time there. I would like to invite President Obama to Boston a take a ride through the Central Artery Tunnel and see what $15 billion buys.  Let’s see if I can remember all the highlights:  Falling ceilings, falling and rusting light fixtures, water leaks, Icebergs (reserved for winter driving), sinkholes, and who knows what else.  If it were up to me "Tunnelgate" would be an appropriate name for this disaster in the making. It will probably be a couple more years before I get to make this trip again from Southern California to see what two more years of inaction looks like.  But I will come with an open mind again and hope for the best that the area is still in the upright position.  For now it's back to the land of sun, surf and liberal indignation on the left coast which shares the same distinction of the other blue state on the right coast.

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