Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tran$portation - MBTA can't pay bills, but is giving pay raises

Let's quickly review a few recent news items pertinent to the Commonwealth's transportation-related budget, shall we?  Monday I wrote about the striking dissonance between the Herald's front page report about a  working stiff in Braintree who has been told by state officials that the MBTA lacks the green to pay him the paltry $1500 it admits he is owed following the flattening of his automobile by a T bus; and the Patrick/Murray Administration's victory dance over some flattering comments issued by one of the bond rating agencies.

That post also mentioned last week's announcement that the Green Line Extension project - first promised to a group of ankylosaurs somewhere around the end of the Cretaceous period - is being pushed back to 2018 (which to interested residents of Sommerville means that the next announced delay has been pushed back to April 2016 or thereabouts).  And the outright cancellation of the Red/blue Connector, which cancellation is sure to draw yet another costly lawsuit from the Conservation Law Foundation, whose animating principle seems to be that the planet can only be saved by government funding of expensive, logistically nonsensical and operationally redundant mass transit projects.

Then there's all this talk about "new transportation revenues" floating around Beacon Hill.  Speaking of which, how about that Governor Patrick?  After pushing his Governor wannabe LG out in front of the gas tax hike bus in the first place, Patrick jumped in, got behind the wheel, and drove the damn thing over him - first refusing to back the LG after Murray's open speculation about a hike; and then pretty much pinning the whole thing on Murray's chest when Senator Brown threw cold water on the idea.  But I digress...

We already knew the Big Dig tunnels are leaking so badly that the lights are falling from the ceiling (never fear: they're now secured with twisty-ties). 

And now today we learn that there is a little subterranean lake forming a few feet below the Big Dig tunnels. Okay, "lake" is an exaggeration, but is reality any less disturbing?. Globe:
State transportation officials revealed yesterday that soil thawing underneath a Big Dig tunnel has created a gap filled with water about 9 feet below the roadway. But they said they are monitoring the issue and it does not pose any risk to the traveling public.

Work crews chemically froze the soil 11 years ago so that it would not cave in as they dug into the ground and built the tunnel, which connects Interstate 90 to the Ted Williams Tunnel near South Station.

Engineers always anticipated that, as the ground thawed over the years, it would contract. However, it has receded twice as much as initially anticipated and then filled with water because the area is below the water table, officials said. 
Sounds costly, no?  Pay careful attention to this next bit:

State officials have spent $15 million so far to monitor the soil thawing above and below the I-90 Connector, and have budgeted $10 million more for repairs. The money comes from a fund set up by the Big Dig’s contractors.
 Now, I'm no MassDOT engineer (thank God), but does that ratio pass the smell test?  It's like a homeowner saying,  "I've spent $75,000 monitoring the crumbling of my foundation, and budgeted $19.95 for repairs" (plus I get a free back-scratcher!).  But no need to worry.  "The money comes from a fund set up by the Big Dig's contractors."  So apparently does the budgeting philosophy.

 On top of all of this budgetary woe comes this blurb, from the State House News:
In response to Gov. Deval Patrick authorizing up to 3 percent raises for all executive branch managers in fiscal 2012, the MBTA plans to make the same offer to its non-union employees pending a performance evaluation. According to MBTA General Manager Richard Davey, some MBTA managers have not had merit-based or cost of living raises for the past six years. Davey told the MassDOT/MBTA Committee on Labor and Compensation that about 150 MBTA employees would be eligible for the 3 percent raise retroactive to July 3, 2011. An additional 100 managers who have received salary increases or promotions since July 1, 2010 would become eligible for the same raise on the anniversary of their salary adjustment, also pending a performance review.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

1 comment:

  1. Dan who?

    Neil Sagan
    Roslindale, MA


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