The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

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July 18, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 28

Copyright © 2011
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 12th Newsletter Year

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
‘Day On Capitol Hill’ Centers On Rail Industry’s
   Legislative Agenda
Massachusetts DOT Goes 4-For-4 As Yet Another CEO
   Leaves Early
  Legislative Lines…
Report: Amtrak Privatization Plan Is Unconstitutional
  Off the Main Line…
A New Look For MBTA Locomotives
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Five Million In Four Years
Correction to the Story: “In Europe, Irking Drivers
   Is Urban Policy”
  Commentary - Other Voices…
MassDOT Secretary’s T-Problems Long Pre-Dated His Arrival
Infrastructure Needs A Cheering Section
Knocking Down Freeways
  Commentary - Our View
Paying For Safety
  Editorial - Our View
Mr. President: Strip Murdoch Of His Citizenship
  Publication Notes …

NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

‘Day On Capitol Hill’ Centers On
Rail Industry’s Legislative Agenda

From Progressive Railroading Magazine
Found at:

Last week, hundreds of rail industry stakeholders roamed the House and Senate chambers in Washington, D.C., to lobby for legislative interests during the annual “Railroad Day on Capitol Hill.”

Participants included representatives from the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), Association of American Railroads (AAR), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Inc., Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association, Railway Supply Institute (RSI), Railway Systems Suppliers Inc., Railway Tie Association, Transportation Communications International Union, Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, United Transportation Union and other rail industry groups.

The event’s goals: to build a foundation for preserving balanced regulation, forging a more balanced transportation infrastructure spending policy and extending the Section 45G short-line tax credit, according to the ASLRRA. The participants promoted policies that would enable the freight-rail industry to create jobs, continue to record infrastructure investments, keep U.S. businesses globally competitive and aid the nation’s economic recovery, AAR officials said in a prepared statement.

“Americans whose livelihoods depend on a healthy rail industry want Congress to know that freight rail is working for our country and carrying the load so taxpayers don’t have to,” said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger. “At a time when many industries are cutting back and businesses aren’t hiring, freight rail is investing billions of its own capital and hiring American workers.”

America’s freight railroads generate $265 billion in total annual U.S. economic activity and move one-third of U.S. exports while offering the world’s lowest rates, he said. In addition, the freight-rail industry supports 175,000 railroad jobs and more than 150,000 manufacturing jobs in the railway supply industry, said RSI President Tom Simpson.

“We need a robust and vibrant freight- and passenger-rail network because it directly impacts the livelihood of our industry and the livelihood of our workers,” he said.

The rail industry advocates that lawmakers maintain the “reasonable regulatory structure” that has spurred a railroad renaissance and made the nation’s freight railroads the safest, most efficient, reliable and affordable in the world, event organizers said.

“Now more than ever, it’s imperative that sound transportation and tax policies be in place to encourage job creation and private-sector investment in our transportation future,” said ASLRRA President Richard Timmons.

For more information on Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, follow link to read an article (“Congregating on Capitol Hill”) that was published in Progressive Railroading’s July issue.

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Massachusetts DOT Goes 4-For-4
As Yet Another CEO Leaves Early

By DF Staff

BOSTON --- Massachusetts DOT chief Jeff Mullan this past week became the fourth DOT Chief in the Administration of Governor Deval Patrick to leave office early, as turmoil continues to roil the waters of one of the nation’s heaviest users of Federal transportation highway dollars (the “Big Dig” at $21 Billion), as well as the home of one of the nation’s busiest transportation systems.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, one of the oldest and among the nation’s busiest commuter rail and transit (subway, bus) agencies, is under the control of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, although its day-to-day operations are contracted out to MBCR, a private company assembled for the purpose.

Mass DOT has been the subject of intense New England media interest in the past few years because of ongoing reliability problems with the operation of the MBTA, and because of design and/or construction problems with the increasingly notorious “Big Dig” project, which replaced the city-dividing, 1950’s era elevated “Central Artery” highway called the Green Monster --- long before the left field wall at Fenway Park got that name --- with a tunnel under the city. A collapsing ceiling panel killed a woman in the new tunnel in July of 2006, and more recently a 125-lb light fixture dropped to the pavement --- missing cars, this time --- when its support rods gave way. They were later shown to have rusted out due to salt water corrosion, and similarly-supported light systems were later shown to pose a threat throughout the system.

However, the handling of the light-fixture crisis was seen by the news media as a source of controversy, with one major newspaper, The Boston Globe, implying that the Mass DOT under Mullan had been less than forthcoming about the problem, not only delaying notification to Gov. Patrick --- hyper-sensitive to Big Dig problems because of the 2006 fatality, before his election but still much in the foreground in tunnel management concerns --- but also being slow to reveal the widespread extent of the light-fixture-support problem, which turned out to be major.

Mullan’s defenders note that the Big Dig’s problems were created nearly two decades ago by a highly flawed design/build construction approach in which the main contractor, Parsons Brinckerhoff, essentially was allowed to supervise itself, leading to among other things the ceiling collapse of 2006; the eventual blame was accepted by the vendor supplying the ceiling panel supports, not P-B.

In the case of the MBTA, and its increasingly unreliable service, Mullan also is seen as being required to suddenly cope with nearly two decades of maintenance neglect, primarily caused by former Governor and current GOP Presidential contender Mitt Romney, who refused to pay for normal maintenance of the system because of his market-oriented governmental approach, in which all governmental departments – including public transportation ---- are supposed to either support themselves, be privatized if they cannot do so, or go out of business. In fact, MBTA operations were privatized in 2003 to MBCR, when Amtrak declined to bid on what its then CEO David Gunn saw as an unrealistic contract offering. He may well prove to have been right to pull Amtrak out of the bidding process, as the MBTA service record has deteriorated since MBCR’s accession to the contract.

Mullan was also reported to have requested in May a raise to his $150,000/year salary, and to have been rebuffed by Governor Patrick --- who has the same massive revenue problems faced by other states --- according to the Boston Globe, at which point he essentially gave notice that he could not stay on. Patrick has remained steadfast in his defense of Mullan, and his stewardship of MassDOT.

No exit date has been set, although Mullan has said he wanted to leave before the end of the year; he is likely to stay on until a successor, the fifth in just over five years for that job, has been identified.

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LEGISLATIVE LINES... Legislative Lines...  

Report: Amtrak Privatization Plan
Is Unconstitutional

From Railway Age

WASHINGTON, JULY 14 -- The Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan body created in 1914, has concluded that the proposal by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) to privatize Amtrak would violate the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Though Mica’s proposal has seemed unlikely to gain traction in Congress this year, particularly within the Democrat-controlled Senate, the issue of privatization has put added political pressure on the National Railroad Passenger Corp. this year, despite record ridership. 

CRS finds that the bill fails to meet three prerequisites for protection under the takings clause.

Representative Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said the report validates the position of those who object to the Mica plan. “The ideals enshrined in the Constitution by our founding fathers have guided our nation for centuries, and Republicans should not railroad these principles in their flawed rush to privatize Amtrak,” he said. 

CRS has approximately 900 employees.

For more on this subject, go to

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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off the Main Line...  

A New Look For MBTA Locomotives

By DF Staff and MBTA Press Release

As the manufacturing and production of twenty new locomotives gets underway, the MBTA is asking the public to help choose a design scheme that reflects a new era in the delivery of commuter rail service. Visitors to will be presented with three options from which to choose. The on-line preference poll will be available for two weeks. The design options will also be on display at North and South Stations.

“The design for these locomotives represents a new day at the MBTA as we continue to make state transportation more customer-centric. It is also a reminder of the major transportation investments being made by the Patrick/Murray Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation in our future,” said MassDOT Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Mullan.

“This is an exciting time for Commuter Rail, and we’d like to make our customers a part of it,” said MBTA General Manager Richard Davey. “It’s important that customers know that we are making good on our promises of procuring the equipment necessary to deliver safe and reliable service for years to come.”

MBTA Locomotive Suggested Options

Image: MBTA

Commuters will have till later this month to vote for one of these three designs.

The MBTA is purchasing a new fleet of twenty diesel-electric passenger locomotives from Motive-Power Incorporated of Boise, Idaho. The $114 million investment represents the MBTA’s first major locomotive procurement in more than twenty years. Employing the industry’s newest technological advances, the locomotives are being designed and built to operate more efficiently, reducing fuel use and emissions while significantly improving performance and reliability. In less than two years, these new locomotives will be pulling MBTA commuter rail trains.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Canadian National (CNI)77.9179.19
Canadian Pacific (CP) 61.8962.49
CSX (CSX)25.3226.62
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)58.5059.61
Kansas City Southern (KSU)57.0759.54
Norfolk Southern (NSC)73.9175.68
Providence & Worcester(PWX)14.2514.90
Union Pacific (UNP)100.74104.30

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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


Five Million In Four Years

High-Speed Train Services Between France And Germany Booming

Via Süddeutschezeitung Newspaper

Mannheim – Sabine Huegel from Mannheim, became the five-millionth passenger on the two Germany – France high-speed train routes, which began operations four years ago. She was presented last Monday (11th of July) with a bouquet of flowers and a coupon for dinner in the Parisian restaurant “Train Bleu” by Frank Hoffman, general manager of Alleo, the rail travel marketing joint venture (JV) owned by Deutsche Bahn (Germany Railways / DBAG) and SNCF (French State Railways).

SNCF and DBAG began operations on Stuttgart - Paris and Frankfurt -Paris routes in June 2007 with TGV and ICE-3 train sets respectively, although SNCF has picked-up some of the Paris-Frankfurt train services with TGV train sets due to ongoing availability and reliability issues with DBAG’s entire ICE-3 fleet, including the multi-system sub-fleet of ICE-3M trains dedicated to international operations. Both routes run on the new LGV Est high-speed rail corridor in northeastern France. Passenger volume increased by 10 percent last year compared to the same period one year earlier and passenger volume in first class increased 25 percent last year, indicating increasing success in the lucrative but demanding business travel market

Taking Market Share From Airlines

The passenger volume over the past four years breaks almost evenly between the Paris – Frankfurt and Paris-Stuttgart routes, with 2.8 million on the Paris – Frankfurt city pair, and 2.2. million on the Paris – Stuttgart pair. The TGV on the Paris – Stuttgart line is now in first place in that market with 57 percent passenger share, far above the airlines flying between the two cities. Even in the heavily flown Paris-Frankfurt market where Air France, Lufthansa and other airlines offer dozens of non-stop flights per day with A320 and A321 aircraft, the ICE and TGV trains have now achieved a 25% market share.

Aside from attractive fares starting at 39 EUR (US $55.00) for coach and 69 EUR (US $97.00) for first class, travel times from city center to city center are often the same or even shorter than the airlines, which has helped the train services rapidly pick-up passenger volume and market share. Passenger surveys show satisfaction levels of train passengers on the two routes in the 90 percent range.

An SNCF TGV high-speed train from Paris

Photo: Alleo / DBAG

High-Speed Rail to the German Automobile Capitol – An SNCF TGV high-speed train from Paris runs through the suburbs of Stuttgart back in the summer of 2008 with a Stuttgart S-Bahn EMU train set (DB 423 class) nearby. Stuttgart is home to automobile giants Mercedes Benz and Porsche and many thousands of its residents are employed directly or indirectly by the automobile industry.

D:F readers may recall, that the joint SNCF – DBAG high-speed train service between Paris and Stuttgart / Frankfort are not the only high-speed trains in operation between France and Germany, there is also Thalys, which operates TGV-based high-speed trains from Paris to Cologne (Köln), Germany via Brussels. Thalys has been operation since the mid 1990s.

Deutsche Bahn Applies For Certification of ICE Trains In Euro-Tunnel

In a separate development Deutsche Bahn formerly applied last week for operating certificates for ICE-3 trains at the Intergovernmental Commission (IGC), the safety regulatory authority which is responsible for technical, engineering and safety enforcement and regulations in the Channel Tunnel and the track approaches immediately in the vicinity of the Channel Tunnel portals. IGC certification of the ICE-3 series would allow DBAG to begin regular test runs of ICE-3 in the Channel Tunnel as well preparing for start of revenue services to London in 2013. DBAG plans to use new Velaro D train sets, the latest variation of the ICE-3 series, to London, but route proving testing and production of the Velaro D trains in Germany is falling far behind plan, and may possibly delay their entry into revenue service by a year or more.

The IGC has already decided to overturn an existing regulation that prohibited use inside Euro Tunnel EMU-type train sets with traction motors and propulsion electronics distributed through the train, as opposed to a locomotive hauled train, such as the existing Eurostar train fleet, with traction motors, transformers and propulsion electronics contained in power cars away from the passenger areas. However, as with other rail lines elsewhere in Europe, locomotives and self-propelled train sets require individual model-based operating certificates granted by the IGC to operate in the Channel Tunnel. The ICE-3 series, including Velaro D, also requires separate certification from France and the UK rail authorities. The ICE-3M series has already been certified for operation in France.

DBAG has hired a Swiss engineering consulting firm to prepare reports and documentation to support certification of ICE-3 series of trains by the IGC for Channel Tunnel operations. The same consulting firm has already provided technical reports and risk analysis for operation of the ICE-3 series in the new 57 km (35 mi.) long Gotthard base tunnel in the Swiss Alps , which is the longest land-based rail tunnel in the world.

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Correction to the Story…


“In Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy”

In our story in D:F Vol. 12, Number 27 we allowed a factual error written by New York Times reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal to remain uncorrected. She wrote: “dozens of German cities have joined a national network of ‘environmental zones’ where only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions may enter”.

This is not true. These zones in a number of German cities restrict only soot / fine particulate emissions from diesel engines in cars and trucks. There are no restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions in these zones. We regret this error.

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COMMENTARY - OTHER VOICES... Commentary - Other Voices...  

MassDOT Secretary’s T-Problems
Long Pre-Dated His Arrival

From: The Boston Globe July 15, 2011

“Beacon Hill Is In Denial Over Serious Problems With The T,” Says The Boston Globe

WHEN A broken-down Red Line train stranded more than 400 people underground near Porter Square this week, the only surprising thing was that so many riders took it as well as they did. Some passengers made new friends, the Globe reported; others tossed around ideas for mobile apps that would take account of unexpected delays; still others lent out their iPhones so harried parents could pacify their toddlers with Angry Birds.

But while the breakdown, which ultimately forced passengers to walk to safety through a dim, muggy tunnel, showed MBTA riders at their best, it also exposed a disturbing sense of resignation on their part. When riders think that complaining about major service interruptions is as fruitless as complaining about the weather, it’s bad news for a transit agency that provides 1.3 million trips a day - and for a region that can’t accommodate 1.3 million more car trips on its highways and streets.

The T is long overdue for billions of dollars in repairs, many of which are crucial to the safe operation of a rickety old system. By failing to provide enough for those repairs, Governor Patrick and state lawmakers are taking it as a given that the T is, now and forever, a basket case.

There are some obvious places to look for money. A fare increase would have to be part of the mix, but airport parking revenues controlled by MassPort should also be part of the equation. More far-reaching ideas - such as a gas tax that would also provide more money for roads and bridges - should eventually be on the table as well.

Over time, at least, the 2009 transportation reform bill should produce savings in MBTA employee benefits and other costs - and could help dispel public skepticism about new revenue proposals. But the T is breaking down faster than the state’s unwieldy transportation bureaucracy is improving its credibility with the public.

By mishandling a February incident in which a lighting fixture in the Big Dig fell on to a roadway, the state transportation department has hurt the T as well. But the T’s repair backlog won’t just go away. At this point, the T is like a homeowner who transfers debt from one credit card to the next, while ignoring the gaping hole in the roof and the leak in the basement. As the Porter Square breakdown showed, repairs can’t be postponed forever - or in some cases, even for very long.

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

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Down The Drain:


Infrastructure Needs A Cheering Section

By Paul F. Levy
Contributing To Commonwealth Magazine
Issue Of Summer 2011
Found at:

INFRASTRUCTURE DEGRADES SLOWLY, indeed imperceptibly. The bus arrives a little less frequently; the subway breaks down a bit more often; the water pipe loses water through leakage; the sewer system adds a bit more pollution to the environment. For the most part, there is no political consequence from a deteriorating infrastructure.

In contrast, investment in infrastructure occurs episodically, with direct political consequences. It often requires a vote to increase taxes or fees, which go into effect immediately. Yet the investments that result from that vote take years to be felt in improved services or facilities. Those who vote “yes” get no credit. Indeed, they are likely to be assigned blame and criticized for raising taxes or fees by a public that does not trust they are necessary.

Kevin Harrington, the former president of the Massachusetts Senate, once gave a detailed description of the mechanics of this dynamic on Beacon Hill. Harrington was elected in 1959, when the Metropolitan District Commission was in charge of the region’s water and sewer system. At the time, all MDC expenditures approved by the Legislature would be assigned to the cities and towns in the district and collected from the public through property taxes. Harrington related how engineers from the agency would come before the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee seeking money because the plants taking care of sewage were obsolete.

“And then politics raised its ugly head,” Harrington said when I sat down with him more than a decade ago to try to make sense of how the political establishment deals with infrastructure projects. “It’s so simple, so plain, and so sad—the representatives and senators that were inside of the MDC district would come to those of us who were not in the district, and they would say, ‘Please don’t vote for this money. Our local mayors, our city councilors, and alderman and selectman don’t want their property taxes to go up.’ So I would say in my stupidity, ‘Of course, I’ll vote with you.’”

The metropolitan area transit system is the current poster child for this built-in dynamic that leads us to put off infrastructure investments. The MBTA is severely under-funded with regard to maintenance and upgrades of the regional bus and subway system. On the Orange Line, 120 cars built between 1979 and 1981 need to be replaced. On the Red Line, 74 cars from 1969 are well past their useful life. More than half of the MBTA’s 82 commuter rail locomotives date to the 1970s, and nearly all are at or past the manufacturer’s recommended lifespan of 25 years.

Public officials, having depleted one-time financial fixes, lurch about for long-term funding solutions, while the system deteriorates more each year. Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, describes this as an “exploding structural gap between revenues and expenses.” Talk of system enhancement is at a standstill, even though lines like the Green Line need to be expanded to handle the expected travel-to-work demand of the coming decade. Beyond transit, there are also insufficient funds available to maintain the recently completed Central Artery and Ted Williams Tunnel.

THIS IS NOT a new phenomenon in our state. Decades of underinvestment by the MDC led US District Court Judge A. David Mazzone in 1985 to order a substantial upgrade to wastewater treatment facilities to undo years of neglect and end the pollution of Boston Harbor. Michael Deland, then the regional administrator of the EPA, called the chronic underinvestment that necessitated the harbor clean up “the most expensive public policy mistake in the history of New England.”

Over a decade ago, after I left my position as executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to teach infrastructure planning and development at MIT, I researched the state’s largest infrastructure failure. Many of the people I interviewed are now deceased, but their words live on as a record of the past that has value today.

The story offers two lessons for the future. First, as Deland suggested, if we neglect infrastructure, we will always pay more in the long run. But an equally important—and far less widely appreciated—lesson is that building a political constituency for infrastructure investments is a job that must be taken on by the public agencies themselves, a role often neglected by those appointed to run those agencies.

The MDC sewer system was once considered an “important advance in sanitary engineering,” meriting a front-page story in Scientific American in 1887. This was a public health investment that, by eliminating cholera and typhoid epidemics as well as terrible odors along the Charles River and elsewhere, helped fuel the economic growth of the region. The system was upgraded and expanded over the decades, culminating in 1968 with construction of the largest component of the wastewater treatment system, the Deer Island sewage treatment plant. But by the early 1980s it was showing its age in ways that were impossible to ignore.

When I spoke with him over a decade ago, former MDC Commissioner Bill Geary gave me a sense of the state of the system in 1983 by describing the view of Deer Island from his office in downtown Boston. He said the diesel engines that ran the sewage pumps were breaking down and spewing diesel fuel into the air. “There were ponds of diesel fuel on the roof of the building, and then the stack would get so hot it would ignite the roof,” he said. “I cannot tell you how many fires I used to see from my office. I’d look over and see the sky was black and say, ‘Deer Island is on fire again.’ The whole system was on the verge of collapse, and at any point, a catastrophic failure could occur.”

That catastrophe occurred on Mother’s Day in 1983. A heavy rubber gasket in one of the inlet sewage lines broke, with the butterfly valve leading to the number seven pump in an open position, discharging millions of gallons of wastewater into the pump level of the treatment plant, 12 stories below ground. The sewage reached a level of about 40 feet above the floor, and the pumps had to be shut down. Millions of gallons of sewage were discharged into Boston Harbor and the Charles and Mystic rivers, as the upstream headworks facilities in Chelsea and Boston were forced to “choke back” the flow of sewage that would otherwise head through tunnels to Deer Island.

Steve Kruger, the plant manager, stood on a metal stairway above the flood and gave instructions to MDC scuba divers who, using their hands and ropes to guide them, found their way under the dark water to conduct the repairs. Junior engineer Charles Lombardi witnessed the divers washing their mouthpieces in the raw sewage —the natural and unconscious act of scuba divers in a pool of water. Geary summarized the situation for the divers, who suffered terrible diseases for months and years to come: “They did the unthinkable and accomplished the impossible.”

The MDC itself failed to make a persuasive case for additional funding

That the plant suffered from inadequate budgets and staffing from day one was no secret to those at the plant or at the MDC, or in other parts of state government. As Dianne Dumanoski recounted in a three-day series in the Boston Globe in 1982, the breakdowns were “tragically predictable—a result of well-known equipment and staffing problems that had plagued the plants. With monotonous regularity, these problems had been cited again and again in special studies and dozens of treatment plant inspection reports over the last decade.”

The MDC’s inability to secure even the bare minimum of operating funds was sometimes the result of budgetary pressures but often legislative disinterest. Lawmakers were more interested in projects important to their constituents. As Howard Whitmore, who served as an MDC commissioner in the late 1960s, told me: “Every member wanted a skating rink, and they got quite a few.”

But the agency itself often failed to make a persuasive case for additional funding. Charles Foster, Gov. Francis Sargent’s Secretary of Environmental Affairs until 1974, noted a disconnect between the agency’s needs and its budget requests. “The MDC people were so good at putting chewing gum in the holes and things like that, that everybody said, ‘Let’s go on that way for another 10 years,’” he told me.

The situation persisted through the early 1980s. John Bewick, Gov. Ed King’s Secretary of Environmental Affairs, said the agency did a poor job at selling itself. “They could never articulate the case,” he told me. Then Bewick hit on the real issue: “Strangely enough, the MDC did not have a strong political constituency.”

There can be a constituency for maintaining and improving infrastructure, but there has to be an informed public that is alert to the consequences of degradation in that infrastructure. How could that not have been the case here, where raw sewage was being discharged into coastal waterways that were sites for recreation, fisheries, and commerce? Where were the natural constituencies? The short answer: They had not been engaged.

That included the press, which has a lot of power to set the public agenda through its coverage selection. Tom Winship, long-time editor of the Boston Globe, told me that, before their 1982 series, the paper had simply not paid attention to the problem. “We at the Globe didn’t get turned on to the environment or any other regulatory lapses that were existing — such as the MDC. We just didn’t care about raw sewerage.”

Doug Foy, who took over as head of the Conservation Law Foundation in 1977, and who eventually filed the lawsuit leading to the Boston Harbor Cleanup, admitted he was late to the issue, “We didn’t pay any attention to Boston Harbor until Dianne Dumanoski wrote her series in the Globe in 1982. That certainly got our attention. I suppose we can take some of the blame for not waking up earlier.”

But the major reason the MDC did not have a constituency for its own infrastructure needs was because it did not try to create one. “The MDC never really had an information delivery service as part of it,” said Foster, the environmental affairs secretary in the Sargent administration. “They were so busy doing the functions that they forgot about translating the functions into terms a constituency could understand. The MDC really did not use its natural constituency base.”

Dumanoski told me public infrastructure managers need some PR savvy to draw the attention that is necessary to build public support for their efforts. “If I were an agency head running a sewer system and I wanted to prompt the press to write stuff that would help me build a constituency to get the money to repair my system, I would have to be willing to make an issue of things or grandstand in a certain political way to get attention when they were trying to cut back on budgets,” she said. “If you had somebody who was politically astute and cared, there might have been specific times when you could have gotten coverage.”

In the end, it took a federal court order to do what state government had failed to do and get Boston Harbor cleaned up. That is hardly a public policy model for how we ought to ensure that attention and resources are paid to public infrastructure needs. It may be hard to accept the idea that government agencies themselves should work to develop political constituencies that will support their efforts. But infrastructure may be an important exception. Infra structure is not policy. It is not a social service program. It is physical stuff in the ground on which we all rely, on which the health of our economy depends, and it only gets built and maintained when it has been designed, financed, and put out for bid.

Though one hopes that we learn from our mistakes, I fear we are repeating today the same shortsighted approach that cost us so dearly with regard to our water and sewer infrastructure and the horrific despoliation of Boston Harbor. Well-intentioned public servants are tip-toeing around the need for major investments in the regional transit system, using terms like “reform before revenue” to delay action. But the delays that result from the lack of investment are substantial and growing. The leaders of the relevant agencies must lay out the consequences of these delays—unsafe equipment, delayed bus and train service, unpleasant riding conditions—to force action by the body politic.

The public expects infrastructure to exist and be in service when they need it. But you cannot expect them to think about its maintenance when they flush the toilet, or get on a bus, or go through a turnstile unless those charged with running an infrastructure agency view themselves as the champions for its mission. Unless they are skilled in tapping the latent constituency that exists in the community, their facilities will inevitably go down the drain.

Paul F. Levy was executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority from 1987 to 1992 and chairman of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities from 1983 to 1987. He was adjunct professor at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning from 1992 to 1998.

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Knocking Down Freeways

Editor’s note: A propos to the burden of funding infrastructure maintenance and repair, another solution is “tear it down!” Below is an excerpt from an article entitled “Livable Cities Don’t Have Freeways,” from the urban website Sustainable Cities Collective, citing numerous examples of cities in the U.S. that are removing highways because it would cost too much to repair them.


In the U.S., cities are tearing down freeways to avoid maintenance and replacement. Just this past March, NPR  ran a story on freeway removal that highlights a contradictory trend to Europe’s expensive new roads. The freeways built in the ‘50s and ‘60s are deteriorating to a condition where they are no longer safe to use, so cities are choosing to dismantle them instead of repair them. “Milwaukee removed a freeway spur for $30 million,” according to NPR. “Officials estimated it would have cost between $50 million and $80 million to fix that roadway.”

Money is a big motivator for such a decision and it is by no means a localized issue. Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, with the wear-and-tear of the years and the damage of a 2001 earthquake, was demolished in February 2011, making way for an underground tunnel in the region. But money is not the only motivator. Portland’s four-lane freeway, Harbor Drive, was shut down in the ‘70s in a beautification effort of the west bank of the Wilamette River. The space is now occupied by a greenway and the current success of Portland’s downtown is credited mostly to the demolition of Harbor Drive.

Alaskan Way Viaduct

Photo by Cliff1066 via Flickr &

Demolition work on Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct started in February 2011, relieving the city from maintenance costs.

San Francisco went through a similar transformation with its Embarcadero Freeway.   Although the freeway’s actual demolition didn’t come to fruition until damage from a 1989 earthquake, the road was believed to be “the city’s worst planning mistake” and “denounced as an eyesore” that blocked the waterfront early in its lifetime, according to a New York Times  article from 1990.

Today, a handful of U.S. cities are joining the movement.  New Haven, CT, for example, has been debating whether to convert a one-mile expressway corridor into a network of city streets. The Board of Alderman decided in December 2010 that it would accept a federal grant and pursue the demolition.

But perhaps the trend hasn’t gone national quite yet. Similar to Glasgow’s M74 or Surrey A3, Boston completed a $20-billion, 3.35-mile tunnel project that re-routes the city’s main highway. In early June, we reported on a new study by Smart Growth America that said, between 2004 and 2008, states spent $37.9 billion annually on repair and expansion projects for their roads and highways.

By the same token, “Anyone who follows infrastructure maintenance can tell you that this country has not been doing it’s job when it comes to maintaining roads,” as blogger James Sinclair wrote for Stop and Move,  saying we face a potential future of “crumbling” highways and “structurally unsound” overpasses. It looks like we have a long way to go.

Outside of the U.S., cities have gained international recognition for tearing down unnecessary concrete. One recent high-profile example is Seoul, where city planners helped to restore the Cheonggyecheon River by removing three miles of elevated highway, which help cut air pollution and reduce air temperatures.

For the complete article, go to

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COMMENTARY... Commentary - Our View...  

Paying For Safety

By David Peter Alan
Contributing Editor

There is an old saying that things come in threes. First, a tractor-trailer slammed into Amtrak Train #5 at a remote highway crossing in Nevada, killing six people. That happened three weeks ago, on June 24th. Last week, a collision between an Amtrak Downeaster train and a truck in North Berwick, Maine, caused a great deal of damage, including the death of the truck driver. When will the third accident in the series take place?

The media are filled with headlines that scream “Train Hits Truck” or something to that effect. Of course they could not say that about the Nevada wreck since the truck slammed into two passenger cars on the train, destroying them and killing some of the people on the train. Technically, the train in Maine hit the truck, but there is a vital fact that the media either forgets or does not consider: THE TRAIN IS ALWAYS ON THE TRACK WHERE IT BELONGS.. THE MOTOR VEHICLE, WHETHER A TRUCK OR AN AUTOMOBILE, IS NOT. There are warning devices located at grade crossings for good reason. Unfortunately, while trains cannot stray from their appointed routes, automobiles and trucks can.

Three weeks ago, our publisher, James P. RePass called for elimination of all grade crossings where railroads and roads for motor vehicles meet (D:F, June 27th). This writer agrees, and it seems inconceivable that anybody who cares about safety would not. Nonetheless, eliminating grade crossings is expensive. The freight railroads do not see the need to spend money on protecting passengers on the few Amtrak trains on their tracks, or to prevent the rare occurrence when a truck or automobile might run into a freight car carrying hazardous materials.

Neither can passenger rail operators afford the cost of eliminating grade crossings. Busy passenger lines such as Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and the Morris & Essex Line on New Jersey Transit eliminated most or all of their grade crossings many years ago. For example, the Lackawanna Railroad eliminated them on the M&E Line in 1916. Today, Amtrak and our local rail transit providers are barely surviving financially, and Amtrak is again under threat of drastic funding cuts. In short, no passenger rail operator today can afford the cost of the level of safety that eliminating grade crossings would deliver.

There is one answer, although the highway-auto-oil establishment will not like it. That is to pay for eliminating grade crossings from the highway budget. For the past ninety years, highways have been a sacred cow to politicians, both Republicans and Democrats. That will not change anytime soon. Major highways are always grade-separated from each other, so road builders know how to eliminate grade crossings. Flyovers and duck-unders for rail lines make at least as much sense as they do for highways, and the engineers and builders know how to design and build them.

Fatalities from road and highway accidents now number between 30,000 and 40,000 every year; about as many every month as were killed on September 11, 2001. The death toll used to be even higher. Whether or not they think about it consciously, motorists accept the fact that they assume the risk of death or injury when they drive onto the highway. Even the most careful drivers know that somebody else on the road may not be so careful. Rail passengers do not expect to assume that risk, nor should they. They are carried to their destinations by professionals, on railroads that are overseen by other professionals. Still, they face the risk that a motor vehicle will be in the wrong place on the highway at the wrong time, and it makes no sense that they should be forced to assume such a risk.

If highways are worth the money they cost, safety should be worth the money needed to build a system that ensures it. There will probably be another incident where an automobile or truck hits or is hit by a train. Again, the train will be where it is supposed to be, while the motor vehicle will again be in the wrong place. When our government realizes that safety is worth the cost, America will take one more step on the path to becoming a truly civilized nation. And the people who ride the trains will be able to enjoy increased peace of mind, knowing that they will not fall victim to a motor vehicle that, for whatever reason, is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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EDITORIAL - OUR VIEW... Editorial - Our View...  

Mr. President:
Strip Murdoch Of His Citizenship

By James P. RePass
Publisher, Destination:Freedom

The current implosion of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is just beginning, as others have noted.

That doesn’t mean any lover of freedom should Let Up.

In England, his chief doppelganger, Rebekah Brooks, has resigned after multiple revelations of criminal behavior, including repeated bribery of law enforcement officials, and multiple hacking of private telephone lines, by the journalists under her red-headed Cheshire Cat command.

In America, Les Hinton, CEO of Dow Jones & Company and former Murdoch English tabloid chief, has also submitted his resignation because of his role in those same crimes.

Mr. Murdoch, enabled by his naturalized American citizenship he took (1985) in order to be allowed to own American television stations (he is Australian by birth; foreigners are denied the right of U.S. television ownership), has moved into a central position in American television journalism, especially via the Fox Network. Employing former President Ronald Reagan’s chief media strategist, Roger Ailes, Murdoch has built Fox Network into the leading broadcast/cable media outlet for those Americans turned off by CBS, NBC, ABC, the New York Times, and the rest of what Fox creation Sarah Palin calls “the Lamestream Media.”

But the Fox Network, has become an outlet for straightforward right-wing propaganda in the view of most serious journalists, especially for the views of Tea Party Republicans whose enthusiasm for what they interpret as the U.S. Constitution far outstrips their actual understanding of what it is, and what it represents.

But one thing is clear: one of the requirements to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen (Immigration and Naturalization Act) is to “Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law.”

Bribing law enforcement officials is a felony in England, as it is here. If Mr. Murdoch’s papers did so under his stewardship, as has been stated by his lieutenants, as well as some of the recipients of those bribes, that alone would be grounds for revoking Rupert Murdoch’s U.S. Citizenship, ending his right as a Citizen to continue in an ownership position of any television station, which is of course the core of the Fox Network.

That would be a step in the right direction, and we urge the President to take action on it.

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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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