No one’s eliminated the Massachusetts Turnpike tolls just yet, but the turnpike authority did vote yesterday to end tolls west of Route 128. According to the report in the Boston Globe late yesterday, a bit of a perfect storm was brewing just as Governor Mitt Romney was powdering his nose for a press conference on the matter:
At the same time the turnpike authority board was meeting, a special state commission looking at funding transportation needs was also meeting and discussing tolls. Two panel members had told the Globe earlier this month that the commission was expected to call for reinstating the tolls that had been eliminated in Western Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, news spread about the possible elimination of tolls. In the western part of the state, the Berkshire Eagle ran the story, "Mass Pike tolls face extinction." The Springfield Republican‘s Dan Ring reviewed the news along with a collection of state legislators’ comments (or notable lack thereof) in his story, "Turnpike tolls may end in WMass."
The Boston Herald has added its voice to the fray with a brief report on financial impact, a more in-depth report by Casey Ross, and an editorial calling the move "consistent." The Globe also published an editorial on the subject calling the move political, as well as irresponsible, "cutting off one revenue stream without proposing another that would allow the Highway Department to keep the turnpike and the other state highways and bridges in good repair."
Some bloggers are ranting, but not central Massachusetts-based David Eisenthal. His first reaction to the news, as a frequent I-90 driver, was, "Hooray!" but as he wrote in a post today, "rational thought returned." Another blogger, Jim, is peeved because he just purchased a transponder, got it in the mail yesterday, and then tuned in to the news to discover the MTA’s vote.
Other bloggers, like Rhode Island-based TomDaBombb, or New York-based Gales, seem like they might be ticked off about transportation in Massachusetts no matter whether or not there are turnpike tolls. Gales posted yesterday:
Why do they continue to have their own transponder-based toll collection system that’s branded separately from EZ-Pass but is compatible? And why for god’s sake is it sponsored? I’m expecting one day I’ll be driving the McDonald’s MassPike. And speaking of the pike, what’s with the spelling? on I-90, it’s Marlborough but on I-495 it’s Marlboro.
And TomDaBombb posted today:
I swear every time I go to Boston, the exit I need to take is either closed or permanently removed. And the detours they send you on are like little adventures. You get redirected right downtown into a crazy metropolis of one ways, dead ends, and streets that are way too small for the amount of cars driving on them. I’m never in the correct lane for the turn that I need to make, and I always see the next detour sign at the very last minute.
According to the Boston Globe, however, those high-handed Boston-centric members of this special transportation commission deems it fit to place I-84, I-291, and I-391 under the purview of the Turnpike Authority. Why would they do that? Maybe to draw off some revenue to help pay for maintenance of these important highways, right? Ha, think again. This arrangement would allow the Turnpike, using its authority to impose tolls, to guess what, impose TOLLS! Tolls, my friends on roads already paid for and in the case of 291 undergoing rehab as we speak. So where would this money go? To the Turnpike Authority’s bank account to pay off its outrageous bills for the Big Dig!
Speaking of the Big Dig, WGBY‘s weekly show, "Watercooler," hosted by Susan Kaplan, returned on October 11 with a show honing in on the subject, "The Big Dig Disaster," from a western Massachusetts perspective. Guests included Tim Brennan, Linda Dunlavey, and John Mullin.