THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
TROUBLE IN THE BIG DIG TUNNELS

Lack of funding hobbles highway safety efforts

July 17, 2011

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THE GLOBE’S story on Big Dig tunnels (“Worries about lights were kept in dark; Engineers knew corroded tunnel fixtures could signify real danger, but they moved slowly, secretly,’’ Page A1, July 10) identified an important issue of agency culture in communicating issues of risk to senior officials and to the public, but it unfortunately ignored a much larger truth: the threat to public safety posed by inadequate funding.

It was clear during the Romney administration that funding for both highways and transit was dramatically inadequate. Rather than act, Governor Romney appointed a bipartisan commission, which reported at the end of his term that it would take $20 billion to achieve a state of good repair. Governor Deval Patrick proposed a significant increase in the gas tax, but the Legislature insisted on “reform before revenue,’’ and provided only patchwork funding.

The reform streamlined the Turnpike and MassHighway into MassDOT, but the same employees who for over a decade were told to “never write anything down’’ are still practicing a poorly informed brand of triage among competing disasters waiting to happen.

Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan has worked tirelessly on reform, and has achieved real savings from using civilian flaggers and some other purchasing efficiencies.

True transparency will make clear that with the dangerous underfunding of maintenance, the transportation system, and the commuters who depend on it, are at risk. But true transparency will require that the community’s political and civic leadership be ready to face the inconvenient truth.

Frederick P. Salvucci
Cambridge

The writer is a former secretary of transportation.