Last week, MassDOT released its new Capital Investment Plan, which proposes to spend $12.4 billion over the next five years on wide range of road, bridge, and transit improvements. The specific projects demonstrate a commitment to investing across the Commonwealth. There is $260 million to replace the aging I-91 viaduct in Springfield, $254 million for planning and initial improvements for South Coast rail, $42 million to upgrade rail in the Hartford-Pioneer Valley "Knowledge Corridor," $35 million to restore passenger service on the Housatonic Railroad, and $31 million for track and signal upgrades for the Cape Flyer.
While calling attention to projects outside of Greater Boston is an important contribution, perhaps the crowning achievement is the transparency this plan provides. For the first time MassDOT has consolidated capital investments for all its divisions in one document. This facilitates an easy comparison of spending levels. We can see that over half (53 percent) of the spending in the plan will be going to the highway division, a quarter (25 percent) to the MBTA, and only 4 percent for non-MBTA rail and transit projects. We can lament that RTA investment is such a small part of the total, but at least we know what RTAs will be getting: $255 million over the next five years, to purchase new RTA buses and paratransit vans for local Councils on Aging, and to make improvements to bus depots and maintenance facilities.
This information is vital because the debate over transportation funding and regional equity will continue to loom large throughout 2014. Governor Patrick will only oversee one year of this plan. There is no guarantee that the next governor will continue these priorities. Transportation Secretary Rich Davey has also said that the plan assumes revenue from the indexing of the state's gas tax to inflation, which will likely be the subject of a ballot initiative. If that indexing is repealed by voters in November, the plan will have to be redrawn.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston announces the winners of the Working Cities Challenge. Congratulations to all of the participants. Lawrence will receive $700,000 to increase student achievement and family economic success. Fitchburg will invest its $400,000 award in a new eCarenomics Initiative, a data-driven effort to strengthen the North of Main neighborhood. Holyoke will get $250,000 to support social ventures, small business development, and adult basic education. Chelsea will use its $225,000 award to revitalize the Shurtleff-Bellingham neighborhood.
An MAPC study on how to improve downtown Lynn (funded through the federal Sustainable Communities program) calls for more parks and restaurants, the Item reports.
In Pittsfield, plans to build an upscale hotel downtown have been submitted to the city for review.
Brockton area immigrants are benefiting economically from the African and Caribbean communities' practice of an informal savings pool or "sou sou."
Thanks in part to strong leadership from the Massachusetts Public Health Association, the new transportation bond bill will include $50 million for "complete streets" projects.
Globe columnist Shirley Leung gives a nod to the Governor's transit legacy with an emphasis on his forward-looking regional investments.
The MBTA announced an expansion of commuter rail service from Worcester to Boston, set to start on January 27. There will now be 20 round-trip trips on weekdays and nine on weekends.
Major construction in Fall River on the Route 79/Braga Bridge Improvement Project is set to continue through the winter months.
MassINC blogs on the Grossman campaign's plan for investing in career and vocational education.
The public is invited to take part in the review process at the Whittier Regional Technical High School in Haverhill.
Superintendent Pia Durkin has begun to outline her plan to reboot the "underperforming" New Bedford High School.
Programs in Lynn offering adults high school diploma equivalency classes have huge waiting lists. The head of Operation Bootstrap calls the situation a crisis, the Item reports.
An anonymous benefactor has donated $1.1 million to UMass Dartmouth's LeDuc Center for Civic Engagement in honor of community activist Rev. Robert Lawrence, who has ministered to the Fall River area for the last 60 years.
Salem schools reach out to adults in the community to serve as volunteer tutors, the Salem News reports.
Holyoke is set to receive $50,000 initially, $1.28 million over 15 years, and permanent job opportunities for residents in a deal with the proposed MGM Springfield casino.
With Lowell facing a number of vacancies in key financial jobs, City Manager Bernie Lynch says he may be willing to work beyond his March 10 departure date, the Sun reports.
The Fall River City Council is scheduled to vote on Deputy Chief Robert Viveiros' contract as the city's next fire chief.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera shakes up the police department, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
Fall River is currently seeking out sites for eventual clean up with funds from a $400,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant.
In Haverhill, the Citizen Center is reconstructing its outside walls to improve the building's insulation and save the city money through energy efficiency.
Fall River received $46,474 in grants from the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to remove the Rattlesnake Brook Dam.