July's passage of the transportation bill by the Legislature brought with it the creation of another layer of bureaucracy in the form of the Project Selection Advisory Council, whose nebulous role and authority legitimately concern the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. The planners are seeking assurance from the Department of Transportation that this group will not threaten Berkshire input in Berkshire transportation projects, and that assurance must be given and set in concrete.
Transportation projects and funding are currently prioritized by Berkshire County's Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is comprised of representatives from Berkshire municipalities. The new advisory council cannot be allowed to undermine the local MPO, especially if it is loaded with Boston-area appointees, as it assuredly will be.
At a recent meeting (Eagle, September 24), BRPC members raised the specter of the Big Dig, the Boston boondoggle that sucked up more than $24 billion in highway funds. A state transportation adviser recently assured attendees of an Eagle editorial board meeting that the Big Dig helped Berkshire residents by making it easier to get to Boston's Logan International Airport, an airport Berkshire residents generally avoid in favor of airports in Albany and Hartford. This Boston-centric attitude is not new, and there is a danger that the advisory council, if dominated by it, could do real harm to the Berkshires.