Rafael Mares, staff attorney at Conservation Law Foundation, authored the following letter to the editor of the Boston Herald in response to Charles Chieppo’s op-ed on July 3, entitled “Fast Track to Trouble“.
In his op-ed, Charles Chieppo accurately states that the “T is a cornerstone of the regional economy and a lifeline for countless people.” (Fast Track to Trouble, July 3, 2012) Ironically, Mr. Chieppo considers the very transit improvements that help make the T so important “the worst Massachusetts transportation decision of half of the 20th Century.” To come to this conclusion, he relies on a number of inaccuracies. The transit projects required to mitigate the Big Dig air pollution were not finalized two decades ago during the Dukakis administration; they have changed over time, most recently during the Romney administration. The negative impact on air quality from the Big Dig is real and has been confirmed by scientists during both Democratic and Republican administrations. The commitments obligated the Commonwealth—not the MBTA—to pay for these improvements. The MBTA was saddled with the debt only in 2000, through Forward Funding legislation, which overestimated the revenue stream it dedicated to the T. The legislature’s failure to correct this mistake, by providing sufficient funding or relieving the T of the debt, is a better candidate for the worst transportation decision in recent history.