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Keller @ Large: Has Transportation Really Been Reformed?

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WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Globe reported late last week that Gov. Patrick will early in the new year come forward with a long-awaited plan to close the billion dollar a year funding shortfall in our state transportation system, our crumbling bridges, inadequate roads, and faltering public transit.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

No, they’re not going to turn the State House into a luxury hotel to help close the gap.

Instead, look for much higher taxes and fees, almost surely including a fat hike in the 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax.

There’s no way that’s going to be popular, even if, as they should, the pols try to spread the pain around by putting open-road tolling on interstate highways and slapping license fees on bicyclists who’ve been the beneficiaries of a lot of recent public spending.

Lawmakers acknowledged this p-r problem they face years ago by promising “reform before revenue,” a series of efforts to streamline transportation management and cut waste in the system.

Some good progress has been made, and sincere reformers like former MBTA chief turned Transportation Secretary Rich Davey have restored some degree of credibility.

But that mission is far from accomplished, and selling the tax hikes to a skeptical public is made even more difficult by stories like Sunday’s Globe report about Sheila Burgess, the director of the Mass. Highway Safety Division, who had apparently spent quite a bit of time prior to her 2007 hiring violating a wide array of highway safety rules.

The Globe reports she has 34 entries on her driving record, including “seven accidents, four speeding violations, two failures to stop for a police officer.”

And guess what?

It seems her primary qualification for her $87,000 a year job was her connections to a who’s who of prominent politicians.

This story may not prevent the governor from succeeding in his push for new transportation money, but it doesn’t help.

Our desperate need for better infrastructure is matched, it seems, by the desperate need of our political culture for intervention to help kick it’s addiction to sleazy, careless patronage.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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