|Poll finds housing costs persistent worry in Mass.
Despite the recent sharp drop in home prices, nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts residents still consider housing affordability a major problem.
The findings were in a statewide poll conducted by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts. More than 63 percent of those surveyed identified housing costs as a “significant concern.”
Nearly 35 percent of those surveyed said either they or a family member were considering moving out of Massachusetts because of housing costs. More than one in four said they were concerned about falling behind on mortgage payments and nearly half said foreclosures were negatively affecting property values in their neighborhoods.
The survey of 515 residents was taken during the last two weeks of March and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
Report faults overtime policy for Easter backups
A preliminary report by state transportation officials has blamed Easter weekend backups along the Massachusetts Turnpike on a policy of eliminating overtime pay for toll takers.
The report, ordered by Gov. Deval Patrick in the wake of public anger at the long traffic delays, ruled out any type of coordinated action by Turnpike employees as a cause, a person with knowledge of the report told The Associated Press last Friday.
In response to the report, Turnpike Director Alan LeBovidge and Transportation Secretary James Aloisi announced last Saturday that they are reversing the overtime policy.
They also announced a series of other initiatives designed to smooth travel and customer service on the Turnpike.
Statistics released last week by the Turnpike Authority showed that 17 out of 167 scheduled toll collectors called in sick.
While only nine called in sick a year ago on Easter, 19 collectors called in sick on a non-holiday Sunday on March 3.
The Turnpike had apologized for the inconvenience.
The delays riled drivers forced to sit in long lines while trying to visit relatives and friends on the Easter holiday.
The cash-strapped Turnpike Authority has been under pressure to rein in costs as it grapples with a $2.2 billion debt, much of it left over from its oversight of the massive Big Dig highway project.
The agency has also come under fire for its decision to turn off the trademark decorative blue lights on the Zakim Bridge, which spans the Charles River. Safety-related lights on the 1,400-foot bridge have remained on.
Officials said turning off the lights will save about $5,000 a month, but critics said the move was an attempt to use a high-profile city landmark to pressure lawmakers to find additional funds for the authority.
Tolls are also slated to double on July 1 if the Legislature doesn’t approve a new revenue stream.
The House and Senate have both passed bills that would eliminate the authority as part of a major transportation overhaul and Gov. Patrick has recommended a 19-cent hike in the state gas tax to help fund the state’s overburdened transportation system.
|Work starts on first Mass. “shovel ready” project
GREENFIELD, Mass. — Work has begun on the first “shovel ready” project in Massachusetts paid for with federal stimulus dollars.
Gov. Deval Patrick and Congressman John Olver helped break ground on the new transit center in Greenfield.
The $12.8 million Franklin Regional Transit Center will act as a transportation hub for Franklin County, serving both public and private transit services.
The 24,000-square-foot building is being designed to use far less energy than conventional buildings — including the possibility of producing some of its own electricity.
The new transit hub is also intended to help lure additional investment and redevelopment to downtown Greenfield.
Lt. Gov. Murray spends big on statewide poll
Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray hasn’t been shy about raising campaign money and apparently he’s not shy about spending it.
Campaign finance records show the Democrat spent $23,000 in March on a statewide poll to assess his political standing and prospects.
A campaign spokesman said last Friday the poll is normal political expenditure. And spokesman Michael Cohen said the poll was conducted in early February, not in response to public blowback over a 19-cent gas tax hike and traffic backups on Massachusetts Turnpike on Easter.
Patrick raised only $81,000 for his re-election account during the first three months of the year. Murray raised more than a quarter million dollars during the same period. That brought his campaign war chest to just over $1 million.
|Mass. General stops pediatric program after errors
Massachusetts General Hospital has suspended its pediatric cardiac surgery program after two children suffered serious complications following surgery errors.
The Boston Globe reported last Friday that state public health officials began investigating the cases after Mass. General notified them last week that the hospital had stopped taking young heart surgery patients and was evaluating whether to reopen the program.
Dr. David Torchiana of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization said both babies survived, although one suffered neurological damage. Both are still hospitalized.
He said technical errors were made during both surgeries, although he did not go into detail because of patient privacy concerns.
The program was started just two years ago.