Thursday, October 19, 2006

Eliminate the MassPike Tolls: Umm, no

All right, let's keep this short and sweet. Disbarring the obvious 2.5-weeks-before-the-election stunt that this is, the proposal to elimate the "Western Mass." tolls, that is those west of Route 128, is just dumb. Yes, in such plain English and in so few words, dumb.
Why--because the MassPike, like every other turnpike in the United States, is the only road in the state that pays for itself. And that being said, while it may seem as if our Western Mass. friends' daily chump change goes solely into paying for the Eastern Mass. as many "out there" would like to believe, guess what--it also goes into paying for you to use the MassPike too!
Let me break it down easy for anybody and everybody who uses any toll road, bridge or tunnel--be it the MassPike, the Tobin Bridge or the Sumner Tunnel toll. It is a limited access throughfare originally designed with tolls to cover the extensive cost of its initial construction. Its tolls remain in place to cover the extensive cost of its yearly upkeep. There are free alternatives. I cannot guarantee they are faster; but they are free. I, for example, usually take Routes 99, 28 or 38 into Boston when I drive in to avoid the Tobin Bridge. It sets me back 10-15 minutes; it costs me more gas; the roads (especially if I cut through the Produce Center) are horrible--but it's free. That's the tradeoff. You don't like MassPike--take Route 9--it runs all the way from Boston to the Berkshires... just like the Pike. In fact it's been there long before the Pike took over old railroad-bed along much of the route. And yes, it is generally slower... but it's free. So quit whining--it's your tradeoff.
But let's talk about employment for a sec--let's talk about those 200+ layoffs of toll both employees that would "save" the state money. Great, just be sure to "save" an additional 200 spaces on the state's already long unemployment line for all these displaced state employees. Let's throw them back in the hat with all the other people, state or not, who've been laid off this year and desparately seek decent jobs... hopefully with benefits. I think you get my point.
I've got an idea to solve everything, including the nagging side notion that tolls create pollution (which they do, I'm not disagreeing): eeposition the toll grunts in construction, maintenance and public transit expansionary measures (for the last, I know, wishful thinking). First the state needs to take an active stance in weeding out the toll positions by expanding the Fast Lane. That's right--all you people who drive cars worth more than the average New Englander's yearly salary, but can't shell out $27.50 for a plastic transponder--it's time to get with it! Next, we need high-speed lanes such as the 55 mph ones on parts of the NJ Turnpike--15 mph is too slow; you can try going 15, but you run the risk of getting rear-ended by somebody behind you going 40 who just doesn't care if it's too fast to read his/her transponder--they're late for something, anything! See where I'm going--almost everybody pays Fast Lane = virtually no stopping; 55 mph instead of the ungodly 15 = even less slow-down. All in all that equals what--less pollution, no job loss, quicker trips. Yes, I think I've just solved the problems. And that's why I'm not in charge.

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