Thursday, April 19, 2007

What's Happening in Fall River

From time to time there are items in the news that interest me enough to want to comment but not enough to want to devote a whole post to it.

Here are a few recent items that I think are worth mentioning.

Commuter Rail
The Boston Globe has an Op/Ed piece about extending commuter rail to Fall River and New Bedford. (Registration Required) It's the author's view that the state cannot afford to maintain the existing infrastructure and has no clear funding lined up to pay for construction of the New Bedford/Fall River line. On top of that where is the state going to come up with the 26 MILLION dollars needed to operate the line annually?

Lefty's view: I have to admit, I too have been questioning if we can really afford to do this project.

Hess LNG
Hess is once again predicting success for its proposed LNG facility in Fall River. (Registration Required) Spokesman, Gordon Shearer, stated he was "cautiously optimistic" that the plan would eventually get through all the hurdles while admitting that the strong opposition against had driven the estimated costs up by as much as 75 million dollars. Fall River's mayor, Ed Lambert dismissed Shearer's statements as "spin" intended to comfort nervous shareholders.

Lefty's view: Once upon a time Ed Lambert was considered foolish to try to oppose a facility that would certainly be built, today that certainty has become "cautiously optimistic".

Spring Cleaning
Fall River has announced it's annual Clean and Green initiative. The city is asking residents to do their part to help clean up Fall River. DPW director Kenneth Pacheco states that the city cannot do it alone and urges everyone to do their share!

Lefty's view: Taking pride in the community you live in goes a long way to making it a better it better place to live.

Preserving a Treasure
St. Anne's Shrine was rededicated after recent renovations. Fund raising helped pay for the $250,000 dollar project that returned one of Fall River's best known landmarks to its former glory.

Lefty's view: regardless of ones religious beliefs St. Anne's is an absolutely breathtaking structure that deserves the support of the entire community to aid in its continued preservation. The fact that the city has such a fabulous and awe inspiring structure is part of what makes Fall River special.


Dr. Momentum said...

I'm not arguing that no new transit lines should ever be built.

...just not to Fall River/New Bedford. At least a lack of funds is a more plausible excuse than, well, no good reason.

Someone from Boston is complaining about the cost of a commuter rail to Fall River/New Bedford? I never would have predicted that.

Lefty said...

Okay, true enough, but I'm not from Boston and I'm complaining about the cost.

From everything I've read the Governor has no clear funding source for the project and the MBTA is in a financial hole and can't afford to keep up on maintenance never mind this.

I understand that many view this as the great economic hope of the SouthCoast that if we only had rail our citizens could go forth and get good jobs! That it will be the key to really re-energizing our local economy!

I'm not convinced.

I've never understood why we need rail to bring good jobs to the SouthCoast. We're pretty ideally located, close to Boston, the Cape, Providence. A large percentage of our workforce commutes to other areas for the jobs that we supposedly are not qualified enough to base down here in the first place.

Is rail going to benefit us or allow those from more expensive communities to relocate down here? (Which might help the area but doesn't necessarily help the people who currently live here!)

Why hasn't our local delegation spent more time on convincing businesses that this area is a great place to locate?

If commuter rail is the spark plug we need, the salvation, how do we pay for it? And after it's here how do we pay to maintain it? Those are real questions that I haven't seen one real answer to.

Gee whiz! I just typed up a blog post as a comment! :)

Dr. Momentum said...

Having people from more expensive communities live here wouldn't benefit the area? Where are they going to buy their groceries? Eat out? Attend performances?

That said, I don't blame you for being skeptical. Who can say that any improvement is going to be a magic solution to a problem that has plagued the area for decades?

How do you convince a business that this is a good place to locate? Part of the problem is the workforce. Actually, most problems you can point to seem to amount to chicken-and-egg problems. Workforce, education, money... always back to money.

Sometimes, a pump needs to be primed, and I think that's how some see the rail.

What did the other areas of the state do to justify the building of their commuter rails? Are those rails really failures?

Where is the state going to get the money? I guess nowhere. Where did the Big Dig (which you and I use every day to get to work) come from?

Oh, wait - we don't use it every day! But we certainly funded it.

Let's say we conclude that the rail is not a good idea for helping this area. OK - so what is the alternate plan? What sort of economic stimulus would this editorialist feel comfy spending his money on for the SouthCoast?

Lefty said...

At the moment I've been up to long and am much too tired to make a good argument here, but, I do want to address your opening. I understand that having people who are higher wage earners move into the area has a benefit. I understand that the money they spend in this area helps our economy and that they will have more money to spend and on more expensive things. All of that will help our economy, improve the area, equate to better schools, more arts, cleaner streets -maybe lined with gold!


It also comes with a price, and we are already seeing it now. More and more people have moved into the area because of its affordability and in doing so the demand has driven up rents and the price of homes. The one thing that doesn't seem to have risen at all is the wage of those who live and work in the area.

In 2001 I remember looking at 3 bedroom homes in Somerset in the 150-175k range. Because I had just suffered a lay-off it wasn't until 2 years later that I was able to start looking at houses again and now the same type of house in Somerset was selling for 225k and up! In fact it was impossible to find a house in Fall River for under 175k

If commuter rail brings the more affluent to this area what we will have accomplished is to improve the region by redefining who lives in it, not by improving the living standards or the opportunities of the people live here now.