Pedestrian Observations: Surreptitious Underfunding
One third of the MBTA’s outstanding debt, about $1.7 billion, comes from transit projects built by the state as part of a court-imposed mitigation for extra Big Dig traffic; interest on this debt is about two-thirds the agency’s total present deficit. Metra was prepared to pay for a project to rebuild rail bridges that would increase clearance below for trucks and cut the right-of-way’s width from three to two tracks. Rhode Island is spending $336 million on extending the Providence Line to Wickford Junction, with most of the money going toward building parking garages at the two new stations; Wickford Junction, in a county whose number of Boston-bound commuters is 170, is getting 1,200 parking spaces.
In October, when an Australian metal-recycling company purchased two deep-water berths in Providence, R.I., Mayor Angel Taveras hailed it as “a major accomplishment in the city’s efforts to revitalize its waterfront industries.”
Five months later, locals are unhappy about the “eyesore” their new neighbor has created: a 50,000-ton hill of steel. “Where did the scrap metal pile come from?” asked a Providence TV station.
It’s the epilogue to a battle that’s been raging in Providence for several years – on one side, a developer who wanted to turn the shoreline into apartments, offices and hotels. On the other, the maritime industries that have been working there since the turn of last century. In the end, industry won, but the complaints that followed – who put this big, ugly heap of metal on our lovely industrial port? – say something about our attitude toward working waterfronts.
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