Protect assets or “we all have problems”

BOSTON (SHNS) – The most serious impacts of climate change may still be decades away, but senators conveyed to state transportation officials and utility leaders on Monday the importance of considering close their vulnerabilities now and develop detailed plans to address short, medium and long term shortcomings.

Members of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change met on Monday morning to hear from guests about the resilience of transportation and electricity infrastructure, things like the power grid, roads and highways, and power systems. transit that are essential to the economy and to the quality of the state of life.

“These are things that our country, our well-being and all of our routines depend on. We want to make sure that they will be able to withstand frequent severe storms, rising waters, and high levels of precipitation, heat and humidity. Because if they can’t stand it, we’re all in trouble, ”said Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem, who chairs the committee. “And it’s quite clear that we need to work to make our transportation system and our electricity system more resilient. “

Monday’s hearing was not tied to any specific legislation and Creem said the Senate committee “seeks to assess the vulnerability of Massachusetts’ transportation and power systems to climate change and determine what action is needed to improve the resilience of these systems “.

Steven Poftak, Managing Director of the MBTA, and Jonathan Gulliver, Highway Administrator for the Department of Transportation of the Mass., Explained to Senators what each of their agencies has done to determine where their vulnerabilities lie, plan to address those issues, then to put in place a solution capable of resisting climate threats in decades.

The T faces “a number of threats,” Poftak said, from problems with flooding in its tunnel system to service disruptions caused by felled tree branches near the Mystic River at a facility. MBTA key bus. He said the T had conducted vulnerability assessments of its entire rapid transit system, major bus lines and commuter train lines. About half of those studies have been completed and the rest are expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

The information gleaned from these studies will feed into T’s budgeting process and the planning of its capital projects, where resilience-focused projects are given priority. Poftak also told the committee about two projects – one completed and one ongoing – to protect T’s assets from climate damage.

At the entrance to a Green Line tunnel near Fenway station, the T installed valves and large steel gates last year to prevent flooding of the Muddy River. The $ 22 million project, combined with the work done by the Army Corps of Engineers on the river itself, makes the T “feel like we have pretty good control of the Muddy River and the risks therein. associates, ”Poftak said.

Across Boston, in Charlestown, the T is part of a project to build a new seawall “which should serve as an effective barrier for the next 50 years” between the Mystic River and the bus garage on the MBTA in Charlestown.

“It’s a critical facility for us. Thirty-five percent of the kilometers traveled by the buses are served by buses exiting this facility, ”said Poftak. He said the $ 45 million in costs associated with the project will lead to a “win-win” for the T and the community, who will get a “spectacular community path” over the new sea wall.

As MassDOT and the MBTA work to make their systems more resilient to better withstand worsening storms, transport agencies also briefed lawmakers on Monday on steps they are taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse that are fueling climate change, such as switching to electric vehicles.

“While a lot has been done statewide, what recent weather events show is that we have a lot more work to do; assessments, planning, engineering and construction, ”said Senator John Keenan, the leading Democrat on the Joint Transport Committee. “And we know it hasn’t been easy and we know it has cost a lot. None of these will change, but we have to do this very important work. “

Senator Marc Pacheco focused on the coordination, or lack of coordination, between state transportation agencies and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to ensure that everyone is paddling in the same direction. to meet the government’s greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Gulliver said MassDOT has an “excellent collaborative relationship” with the EEA and that staff from both sides meet “on an almost continuous basis not only on our ongoing initiatives but also on projects, ensuring what we design the right elements, that we do it in a way that makes sense, and that we work, again, collaboratively to ensure that each other’s policies are respected as best as possible.

Poftak, who runs an agency that is under the umbrella of MassDOT, referred to MassDOT but said his team is working with the EEA as they try “to synchronize our investment plan and go frankly faster ”.

Pacheco said he would like to see more coordination, especially if Massachusetts can have another pot of federal money to draw on if or when a federal infrastructure bill passes Congress.

“If some of this federal money starts flowing, I hope we have a comprehensive plan to meet some of the Commonwealth’s transportation needs in terms of our overall requirements and goals that we have set out.” So I would just like to urge coordination, ”he said. “We need to do this planning now. “

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