Massachusetts is accustomed to transportation delays, but this is a new form of frustration.
For the third time in six months, the state transportation department’s effort to secure federal funding for a badly-needed megaproject was deemed not sufficiently compelling to win the funds. And that leaves the business and tourism communities hoping Gov. Healey’s new transportation team is more up to the task than their predecessors.
The U.S. The Department of Transportation informed state and city officials that their $1.2 billion bid to transform the elevated Mass. Pike at the bend of the Charles River in Allston has been rejected. It’s a crushing, if arguably, temporary blow for the ambitious vision of the Allston Multimodal Project. More than a decade in the making, that hotly-debated, painstakingly designed plan seeks to undo the damage caused by walling off Allston from the waterfront via the environmentally-disruptive Mass. Pike extension in the mid-1960’s.
This rejection pairs extremely unpleasantly with the feds’ two rejections in six months of requests from the state and the U.S. Army Corps of engineers for $1.7 billion to begin the replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges, built when the Pierce Arrow was trending.
As with the Allston money, there is simply nowhere to take this story for the moment. These projects, that seem so vital to us yet constitute just one more make-or-break, must-have in the inbox of the U.S.D.O.T. That seems to be the problem here — there’s just so much competition, and so many worthy competitors, that proposals have to be outstandingly meritorious to win approval, and ours aren’t, at least for now.
In both cases, the state transportation planners and managers were partnered with colleagues at other levels of government. The Cape bridges are the property of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and it’s ultimately the Corps’ responsibility to design, fund and build their replacements. But they’re intricately connected with the state highway system. The Allston project is a once-in-more-than-a lifetime chance to improve that area of the capital city and bring forth its beauty and vibrancy, and city designers were paired with state planners in making the unsuccessful case.
There was a sense over the past five or six years that with a fairly prominent and senior congressional delegation wielding the federal pie knife for infrastructure, covid relief and what have you, we enjoyed better odds than some other places at getting our just desserts, so to speak. But It’s hard to conceive, with people like Richard Neal now in the minority and Republicans bent on at least appearing to clamp down on free spending, our chances aren’t dimming. Mayor Wu, Gov. Healey and her incoming state transportation leadership face a challenge all too familiar on Massachusetts highways — how to get moving forward again.
In today’s no-good, pretty-bad economic news….
The economic dark clouds are lowering, and the retrenchment news this cycle stretches from Pittsfield to Boston, from retail to health care. Tony Dobrolowski of the Berkshire Eagle relates the bad news of Wayfair closing its call center out West, while Jessica Barlett has the details of 70 layoffs at Tufts Medicine after a wretched year in hospital finance. The Pittsfield Wayfair workers will be reassigned, but the call center closing is still a blow to the vitality of the city’s downtown.
Why not make it a hat trick of badness?
This came in during the wee hours, but just continues the theme of Next Stop Recession: Yankee Candle’s corporate parent is laying of 13 percent of its workforce and closing its office in Deerfield.
Unequal Eastie police involvement? Globe columnists wonder
Two Globe columnists asked keen questions yesterday about situations involving different circumstances, but the same neighborhood (East Boston) and more to the point, the same socioeconomic dynamics. Marcela Garcia wonders why, with the media losing its mind over the gruesome-seeming disappearance of a privileged white woman from Cohasset, Reina Carolina Morales Rojas hasn’t received anywhere near the same attention. Garcia notes the click-crazed priority setting of the news outlets, and its demonstrable racist component, but more keenly questions the vigor of the Boston Police Department, which waited till Jan. 12 to publicize Rojas’ case after knowing about it since November. Similarly, Joan Vennochi asks why a group of environmentalists were arrested, hauled away and prosecuted in shackles for staging a protest in front of a controversial substation under construction in Eastie. Vennochi contrasts the police reaction to banner-welding community activists to their purported lack of knowledge that shield-toting, mask-wearing white supremacists were planning to parade around Boston Common July 4, where they generated the fear and outrage they presumably yearned to elicit, and scuffled physically with counter demonstrators. Vennochi’s conclusion: you mess with the electric company, you draw more heat than if you advocate for a racist society.
Clark’s daughter arraigned on assault, property destruction charges
This case should put some of the previous precepts to the test. Riley Clark, daughter of Minority Whip and Massachusetts superstar Katherine Clark, went through her arraignment yesterday after being arrested for defacing public property and scuffling with police. Clark was allegedly taking part in an anti-cop spate of graffiti and fisticuffs at the Parkman Bandstand Sunday night. Clark tweeted a statement supporting her daughter though not her behavior, and the case will certainly be examined for signs of preferential treatment accorded the congressman’s child. Covering Rep. Clark’s appearance in Watertown yesterday, the Herald relates a deft moment of wit from state Rep. Steve Owens, who took a sudden spike in media attention in stride.
On Radio Boston, Wu lays the groundwork for State of the City
When you do the interview, you get to lead with the story everyone else is chasing. That’s what WBUR is doing, understandably, with its interview of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who continues making her case that bold – and contentious – steps are needed to solve the housing-access crisis wracking the region. This theme is going to be a major part of her State of the City, much anticipated in part for how it frames her relationship with part-ally, part-rival Maura Healey The interview gets a writeup by Amanda Beland and Tiziana Dearing.
McGovern warns municipal projects at risk amid debt ceiling crisis
Amid a high-stakes standoff in Congress over the nation’s debt limit, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern is warning that cities and towns could be among those who suffer the most if a deal can’t be reached. McGovern tells Greg Vine of the Greenfield Recorder that communities would likely see already promised federal funds frozen even as their own borrowing costs skyrocket in response to any federal default.
Cambridge City Council goes remote because of protesters
Dozens of protesters disrupted the Cambridge City Council meeting Monday night, forcing the councilors to retreat into a virtual meeting as they pressed the council for answers on the Jan. 4 police shooting of local resident Arif Sayed Faisal, Sue Reinert of Cambridge Day reports. Protesters, many demanding the release of the name of the officer involved in the shooting, also confronted the city’s mayor and police commissioner.
Bus riders stuck waiting for adequate service to arrive, says Alliance
You will never believe this, but the MBTA really needs to improve its bus system. That’s the finding of a new study from LivableStreets Alliance — and forgive the snark; the report carefully lays out what the T needs to do to get from here to decent service for its customers. Key metrics: the bus operation is short 740 drivers and at least 200 electric buses. Gayla Cawley of the Herald reports the findings.
Boston may take a shot at hoops All Star extrvaganza
Rent control, shment control — get ready for everybody to drop what they were doing and turn their attention to the Boston City Council, where councilor Brian Worrell is proposing a hearing on staging a bid for the 2026 NBA All Star game. Worrell tells the Herald that besides the obvious cool factor, the 2022 All Star spectacle in Cleveland generated almost $250 million in economic activity for the city.
‘Magic mushroom’ bill tees up debate over legalizing psychedelics
Jennifer McKim of GBH catches up with state Sen. Patricia Jehlen to find out why she has filed legislation that could make Massachusetts the third state in the country to legalize some psychedelic drugs. The Acton Democrat says a growing body of research suggests psilocybin mushrooms and similar drugs may be helpful in treating depression and opioid addiction. Oregon and Colorado have decriminalized similar substances while several Bay State towns have begun similar pushes on the local level.