As you report, Marblehead’s transportation network costs $3.1 million annually to repair, improve, and maintain. But town leaders and town voters have come up with only $600,000 a year. Now, they want a taxpayer bailout to the tune of $12.5 million.
But the town lacks a strategic plan to address the public health crisis they have created by misappropriating existing funds — including state Chapter 90 funds.
For example, 12 years after a child was killed in the Pleasant Street school crossing at Mohawk Road and the rail trail, the Board of Selectmen had spent not a penny on making that intersection safe. Worse still, it rejected hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money to improve not only that crossing but the entire segment of Pleasant St. where it runs past our town’s two largest schools. Why? We would have had to match those funds.
Also, we misappropriated state funds intended to privilege walking and cycling during covid. Town officials did the opposite. Every dollar was spent to make travel easier for motor vehicles at the expense of these vulnerable road users.
Going forward, the town has adopted a “Complete Streets” policy to access state funds for the same purpose: to make streets safer for those not in motor vehicles. But the Board of Selectmen ensured that our policy had plenty of caveats and excuses (our streets are old!). We’re accepting state money with our fingers crossed.
Despite the ongoing public health crisis, nothing will change. Motor vehicles pose a constant threat to other road users. They take a mental and physical toll on children who would be allowed to bike or walk to school were parents not (rightly) afraid to let them roam the concrete jungle.
The real solution is obvious. When you have a property you cannot maintain, you downsize. Reduce the amount of pavement and you reduce the maintenance costs. Why incumbents who tout their fiscal smarts cannot see that fact is beyond me. So is $12.5 million.