Thursday, March 6, 2008

Watch Out for Falling Bureaucracy

The drive out of Boston along any of the major arteries can be fairly unpleasant. At worst, one faces super-aggressive drivers locked in a cutthroat competition to save time; at best it is drab and lifeless, as is the case with any major highway. One of the few human touches is the abundance of flags and "welcome home" signs draped along overpasses, placed there by families expecting the return of their son or daughter from Iraq or Afghanistan. Whenever I drive by these homemade tributes, I am moved by the image of a fighter's feelings when he returns home from fighting halfway across the world to a true soldier's welcome.

Most likely, readers from every state are familiar with these displays and are accustomed to seeing them around. Those of us in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, however, can bid highway tributes goodbye: the state has decided that they have to go.

After a lengthy review, Masshighway has decided that homemade signs on overpasses constitute a safety threat -- signs affixed by the public could become loose and fall off. Apparently it takes years of experience and a kind of know-how possessed only by state workers to securely fasten a sign to an overpass. As a result, all homemade signs are out, and bland, generic, state-approved signs are in.

Since December, the Highway Department has been staving off complaints from Operation Troop Support and other veterans' groups, but now it looks like they are going to go through with it. What these veterans' groups fail to realize is that Masshighway has a long history of identifying safety hazards along the highways, and that nothing insecurely fastened ever slips by their defenses.

Nothing, that is, except for the roof of the Ted Williams Tunnel -- the crown jewel of the Big Dig, which is the greatest celebration of bureaucracy's ineptitude in history.

In 2006, the roof of the newly minted tunnel collapsed, killing one woman and bringing traffic to a standstill. At a cost of about $14.6 billion, and under the supervision of a host of bureaucracies -- including Masshighway -- the Big Dig should have been perfect. But the accident led to a probe that discovered structural weakness all around the tunnel. Apparently the experts who were paid a king's ransom to make sure the ceiling was secure were either less than capable or less than honest. Either way, repairs are still ongoing while one of the biggest legal battles in Boston's history shines light on the Mass. Turnpike Authority's negligence.

So yes, corrupt firms raking in obscene sums can attach whatever they want to Mass. highways, even though lawyers are saying that the State knew all along. But if family members working out of love and for free think they are going to put up heartwarming signs -- and even if no sign has ever killed anyone -- they have got another thing coming. Clearly, these signs pose an immediate threat to life and limb, quite unlike the 237 leaks still menacing Big Dig tunnels.

No, the danger is not with loving families posting signs along highways. The danger is with government run amok and with bureaucracy.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

I'm sorry Joe, I guess Boston is just a corrupt cesspool