The Train Is Coming, Again [OPINION]
I hope I am wrong about the train. I hope South Coast Rail is embraced by the masses and soars immediately to profitability while drawing herds of tourists into our shops and restaurants. I have been wrong before, but I just don't feel it.
Back when we first started talking about restoring commuter rail to southeastern Massachusetts, we were told it would create an economic corridor with unimaginable business opportunities all the way up the line to Boston. It was economic development justice for all of the sacrifices we made by chipping in for the Big Dig. We don't hear a lot about that corridor of opportunity much anymore because it never was realistic in the first place.
We were also told back then that commuter rail would shuttle chronically unemployed and underemployed residents of southeastern Massachusetts to where the good paying jobs were in Boston. In other words, it would allow us to escape what a Dukakis Administration official described as the "end of the universe" for opportunities in the land of baked beans and Sam Adams beer, far beyond what Boston Herald columnist Peter Lucas described as "pit city."
For decades, the region's legislative delegation licked the boots of the powerful on Beacon Hill for a commitment to a rail project that never materialized. It cost us a commercial casino license and hundreds of millions for much more worthy projects, but grovel we did.
Over those decades, the people of this region saw through the bullcrap and realized they were being played for fools. They began to develop a sense of self-worth through self-survival and learned that they could succeed without Boston's help or approval.
Why didn't the Boston politicians just invest the money in southeastern Massachusetts rather than thinking of ways to transport its citizens to jobs in other parts of the state? It would have been so much easier and less expensive.
Along the way, many in southeastern Massachusetts has begun to realize that the long-promised South Coast Rail project could ultimately be a disadvantage by opening another low-cost bedroom community to the capitol while driving its citizens out of the housing market.
So, now we are told that the Baker Administration is committed to investing the money needed to finally complete South Coast Rail. It's going to take longer than previously thought, but it's coming. Again. Maybe this time they really mean it. Maybe the casino and the oceanarium will follow right behind.
At this point in the game, I have to wonder if the investment in South Coast Rail is really worth it and what the benefits to southeastern Massachusetts truly will be.
I hope I am wrong about the train, but I just don't feel it.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.