October 11, 2007

Toll hike public hearing - Friday evening at 6 pm

Why not just make it Saturday at 5 a.m. and be done with it? Are they serious - dinnertime on a Friday night when the Red Sox start a playoff series? Anyway, that's when the Turnpike Authority travels out to Framingham (perhaps getting to experience some westbound Friday evening Pike rush-hour traffic) to hear what we have to say about getting soaked for a wildly disproportionate share of the transportation financial burden.

Update: They've scheduled a second hearing for Monday, October 22, from 6-8 PM at Nevins Hall in the Memorial Building at 150 Concord Street in Framingham. Well, that's more reasonable.

I hope to be able to get down to Town Hall to give them a piece of my mind. I'm not a regular Pike commuter and haven't been since 1997, but I still find it outrageous that people commuting between, say, Framingham and Newton (which I did for 8 years) pay tolls to fund the Big Dig in Boston when many commuters on the actual Big Day roadways don't even pay tolls to use it.

Once the original Pike bonds were paid off, there was no good reason to keep collecting tolls except that some people just couldn't bear to part with a revenue stream. It used to be, you could argue drivers got their money's worth from the tolls because the road was in better shape than most other highways, especially in winter. But from what I've heard, that's no longer the case. And the congestion is as bad as on other highways in eastern Mass. What are toll-payers getting for that money exactly that commuters on Rte. 495, Rte. 128 and every other highway aren't?

For those who favor "user fees" like a Pike toll, I say it's time for all vehicle users pay their fair share, instead of assessing an extra burden on the users of one highway only. Pike drivers also pay gas and income tax to maintain all the other roads that funds, PLUS a fee assessed just on them. Yet no other drivers contribute to Pike maintenance. How is that a rational policy?

Let's have all drivers start shouldering the true cost of roadway infrastructure. The state needs the money? Then increase in the gas tax, with some sort of offsetting reduction or tax credits for low-income people who would be particularly hurt by this.

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