The Patrick administration and its legislative allies on Beacon Hill are once again pinning the future of the long-delayed Neponset Greenway expansion on winning a federal grant worth almost $12 million.
The state’s application for the federal grant is a good one and we hope it is successful. But, it was a good application last year, too, and the Obama administration did not fund it then.  US Transportation chief Ray LaHood bypassed the Greenway in allotting tax dollars to dozens of other transportation projects across the country -- including several in the president’s home state of Illinois.
So it comes as a shock to learn that our governor and our lawmakers have no Plan B to deal with the fallout from a second turndown. Why is there no other plan in place to fund the Greenway’s construction, which could start as soon as this June if money is secured? Where is the sense of urgency on the part of our elected leaders to follow through on their commitment, particularly to the people of Mattapan, who continue to be walled off from the natural resources of the Neponset? Is there no one at the State House who cares enough about this project – and the people in this community who’d benefit from it – to take the lead here?
You would think that our governor, the man who will criss-cross the country over the next few months preaching the virtues of the Obama government, would be that up-front person, given his personal ties to the president and the fact that this project is, literally, right in his backyard. Yes, it would take a hard ask from governor to president to wrest those millions from LaHood’s grasp, but surely he is up to that. Yet on that same basis, he evidently didn’t make a push last year. Why?
The essence of political support implies a two-way process. Voters in Mattapan give to Deval Patrick (92 percent) and Barack Obama (95 percent). Should not these same voters expect due consideration given to federal help for a project involving a precious natural resource that will breathe new life into their neighborhood?
In the months since the last TIGER grant proposal fell through, legislators have done nothing to advance an alternative funding source in the state budget, leaving everything to chance on this next round of competitive grants from LaHood’s purse.
Contrast that inaction about a Mattapan initiative with the efforts of lawmakers from another part of Boston – the North End – who never stop advancing their own legislation to get state funds for another Greenway, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which in its short life has been lavished with millions in state and federal dollars. But it’s not enough, the North End delegation says as it members press for an additional $20 million over the next five years for the downtown Greenway. Successful or not in the new bidding, give them credit for giving it their best shot. They know that by asking for anything, they’re likely to get something.
It has become all too clear that the completion of the Neponset Greenway is everyone’s second or third priority, if that. It’s time for the men and women who represent us at the State House – from Governor Patrick on down – to take ownership of this special project, make the hard asks to get it funded, and then get it done.
No more excuses.
– Bill Forry