This post was submitted by Allyson Quinby, Account Supervisor at Solomon McCown.
Real estate professionals gathered at NAIOP’s “You Can’t Get There from Here” event to discuss one of the top priorities in Boston right now: improving transportation. It was exciting to hear about all the projects that are in the works, upgrades to the system already underway, and new technology that will allow commuters to get from point A to point B more efficiently.
The audience was fortunate enough to hear from Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey, who served as the keynote speaker, followed by a panel of experts including Michael Cantalupa of Boston Properties, Donald Cooke of VHB, Marilyn Swartz-Lloyd of MASCO and Yanni Tsipis of Colliers International.
Secretary Davey explained how MassDOT will make numerous improvements to the city’s existing infrastructure with a $12.4 billion Capital Investment Plan that aims to make the lives of commuters easier and spur economic development. The much-needed green line extension to Somerville and Medford as well as the South Coast Rail extension to Fall River and New Bedford will make a huge difference for those who live outside Boston. These new public transit lines will deliver an option that’s much less expensive than driving, which means fewer cars on the road and a significant reduction in traffic congestion and of greenhouse gases (something the Secretary said was a major initiative for MassDOT).
Additionally, a Silver Line Gateway will provide a new route from Logan International Airport to Chelsea to service one of the greatest transit-dependent populations in Greater Boston. Secretary Davey called it a “game changer.” As panelist Michael Cantalupa further noted, transportation plays a vital role in any city’s development. As Boston continues to boom with new office buildings and other high-rise projects, it’s critical these new developments remain accessible through increased transportation options.
Secretary Davey assured the audience that money is being invested in the system’s aging infrastructure, which means the need for new transit cars will finally be addressed. In fact, the state will purchase new Red/Orange Line cars and make upgrades to signal systems in an effort to eliminate the on-going problem of constant breakdowns. Millions will also be poured into the state’s highway system. For example, the alignment of the I-90 Turnpike Allston Interchange will reconfigure ramps and straighten the highway to simplify the roadway, as well as allow more room for development.
Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Service is another initiative MassDOT will be implementing. The service will allow more affordable cars to utilize our existing commuter rail line that runs from the South Bay Rail Yard to the South Boston Waterfront. This will open up whole new possibilities for those looking to travel from the Seaport District to Back Bay, a route for which there is currently no efficient method of transportation.
It’s no secret here in Eastern Massachusetts that traffic has a paralyzing effect on local transportation on a daily basis. So it was welcome news to hear that MassDOT is collecting and analyzing years of data to deliver real-time traffic technology. This will not only inform commuters where traffic is, but how bad it will be at what time and why. Secretary Davey announced that by the end of 2014, the real-time traffic message signs that have appeared on major highways will be instituted across the Commonwealth; making Massachusetts the first state in the country to do so.
While the planned investments are exciting, a proposed ballot question could prevent many of these important projects from moving forward. Under the landmark transportation legislation passed last year, the gas tax will be indexed to inflation in the coming years. This will be only a penny or two per gallon at most, but will provide the funding needed to ensure these projects are a reality. The proposed ballot question would repeal the gas tax indexing and would eliminate this crucial source of funding. NAIOP and other business groups are strongly opposed to the ballot question and will be working to fight this initiative in the coming months.
Transportation impacts all of us, and it was fascinating to hear Secretary Davey and the featured panelists give us a sneak peak of what’s in store for the city of Boston and throughout Massachusetts.