Saturday, February 28
Transportation Secretary James A. Aloisi is taking his show on the road, hoping to persuade reluctant legislators and drivers that, absent an increase to the gas tax, that road will crumble, as will the state's fragile transportation network.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick's proposal to raise the gas tax by 19 cents a gallon is a reasonable response to the state's desperate times. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is drowning in $5 billion in debt. The Turnpike is virtually bankrupt, owing $2.2 billion. A study last year concluded it will cost nearly $1 billion a year just to maintain our current roads and bridges. And we need to do so much more than maintain.

So Mr. Aloisi has agreed to play the state's transit bully, convincing drivers that they have to pay more, state agencies that they must consolidate, and state legislators that they must pass a tax hike. We hope he is successful, but the entrenched interests on all sides of this fight are experienced combatants and reluctant to change.

Mr. Aloisi is not varnishing the bitter truth or pretending that we can all have something for nothing. During a meeting on Friday with The Eagle, he said he has been stunned by the sense of entitlement he has found among the transportation agencies; breaking through that wall and letting reality shine in will be a challenge.

There is too much at stake for this initiative to fail. No one likes to pay taxes, but everyone likes to drive on safe roads and bridges. The proposal would require that the Berkshires receive money back in proportion to what we put in. That means more dollars to rebuild East Street in Pittsfield, West Street in Lenox, Route 43 in Williamstown and the Hadley Overpass in North Adams.