Funding for Dot sidewalks falls short in roads bill

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Jul. 5, 2012

Patchwork repairs mark the sidewalk outside St. Brendan’s church. Ed Forry photo

State Rep. Marty Walsh had pushed for the funding of $3.5 million for Dorchester sidewalks in transportation legislation that was on the move on Beacon Hill, but the version of the bill that reached Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk last week did not include the money, and the matter of the sidewalk repairs remains under discussion.

The proposed replacement of sidewalks would start at the intersection of Gallivan Boulevard and Granite Avenue and end at 100 Morrissey Boulevard, at UMass Boston. The deteriorated condition of the sidewalks has prompted frequent complaints from neighborhood activists.

“The sidewalk has been a disgrace for 20 years,” said Sean Weir, president of the Cedar Grove Civic Association. Temporary patches, like asphalt in front of St. Brendan’s Church, are not the solution, Weir said. He also said city and state agencies had spent years pointing fingers over who is responsible for maintenance of the sidewalks, before the state Department of Transportation’s acknowledgement of responsibility for Gallivan Boulevard.

Walsh called the sidewalks’ condition “terrible” and a “disaster,” adding that the money would go towards new curb cuts.

But the Senate did not agree to the inclusion of the funds, Rep. Walsh’s office said Monday, which pushes the money to be debated down the road.

“This project is very important to my district because this area is home to churches, schools, and shopping districts; it is frequented by many families with young children and senior citizens, who use wheelchairs and walkers,” Walsh, a Dorchester Democrat, said in a statement. “Repairs on this stretch of sidewalk are badly needed.”

The bill, without the sidewalks but with $200 million for road and bridge repairs, was signed by Patrick on Friday. A separate bill signed by Patrick sent $49 million to the perennially cash-strapped MBTA. Fares rose on Sunday, the start of the new fiscal year, as part of the MBTA’s efforts to close a massive deficit.

In Washington, federal lawmakers passed their own transportation bill, which included a tunnel inspection program championed by US Rep. Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat who represents parts of Dorchester and Mattapan.

The bill offers up $105 billion in funding for transportation programs, and $1.9 billion will be heading to the Bay State.

The tunnel inspection program was sparked by the July 2006 death of Milena Del Valle, who was crushed by a Big Dig tunnel’s ceiling panel.

According to Capuano’s office, the bill calls on the federal Department of Transportation to create minimum requirements for tunnel inspections and a certification program for inspectors.

“Although this is not the bill I would have written, due to the current fiscal climate and Republican resistance to seeking increased funding for transportation, I think it’s an acceptable compromise that will bring millions of dollars into Massachusetts over the next two years,” Capuano, a member of the House Committee on Transportation, said in a statement.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill later this week.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.