Last Thursday Mayoral Candidate Dan Conley called a press conference at LoPresti Park in East Boston to unveil an action plan for the neighborhood aimed at improving the quality of life for residents
The plan, Conley said, is the result of numerous conversations with local residents and activists on how they envision the future.
One of the plans Conley proposed last week that has some MassDOT bureaucrats nervous is the removal of the Sumner Tunnel tolls onto Logan Airport property. The plan would once and for all make a trip to and from Eastie free for Boston residents.
“Right now, visitors to East Boston must pay a $3.50 toll to enter and leave the neighborhood, which makes it harder for restaurants and businesses to attract customers and share in the public life of our city,” said Conley. “Worse, East Boston residents who don’t have an EZ PASS system must pay the toll just to get to and from their homes. These tolls were targeted at traffic to Logan Airport, not residents of and visitors to East Boston. Let’s put the toll burden back where it belongs, on airport users, and return the plaza lands to East Boston for better use.”
Conley’s plan received immediate backlash from MassDOT officials. MassDOT spokeswoman Sara Lavoie told the Boston Herald that “if these toll facilities were to come down a new revenue stream would be needed to replace the $80 million that allows us to meet our bond obligation each year through 2039.”
However, Conley shot back this week and said the issue is: why are Eastie residents, businesses, and visitors shouldering such an unfair burden?
“I’m hearing from small business owners who tell me they spend hundreds of dollars per month sending delivery and supply trucks through the tolls,” said Conley. “I hear from residents saying they feel badly inviting friends to East Boston because they have to pay to visit. MassDOT needs to think differently. Move the tolls onto airport land. If they need to adjust toll levels, go have that discussion. But to tell East Boston residents, businesses and visitors that an unfair system will stay in place simply because they need the money and are happy with the status quo is insulting.”
Conley also pitched ensure equal footing for taxi service to Eastie.
“East Boston and its residents are too poorly served by taxi cab drivers,” he said. “A small number of drivers, taking advantage of the confusion surrounding tolls, charge significantly inflated cab fares to travel here, which cheats both visitors and residents and makes East Boston a less appealing destination. Other drivers are reluctant to take passengers to East Boston for fear of not finding another fare to get them back downtown. Still other drivers use residential streets as cut-throughs to avoid tolls. As Mayor I’ll crack down on price fixing and other practices that hurt East Boston and its residents.”
If elected Conley said that he would restore the Little City Hall, a popular program during the Kevin White administration, to Eastie.
“There is no reason East Bostonians should have to take the tunnel and go downtown for every single municipal issue,” said Conley. “A ‘Little City Hall,’ staffed by a local neighborhood liaison and located in the heart of East Boston, could help residents with basic city services that can’t be resolved online, and maintain a dialogue between the Mayor and neighborhood residents. A satellite office in East Boston served that role for many years and, as Mayor, I’ll bring it back.”
Also part of Conley’s five-point action plan for the neighborhood includes a revitalization of the waterfront to compliment ongoing development in the area.
“East Boston is blessed with a waterfront with incredible skyline views and limitless potential,” he said. “Unfortunately, the community is cut off from the water by large swaths of boarded up buildings or vacant lots. This has to change. As mayor, I’ll insist that absentee landlords develop these properties or make way for someone who will. A renewal of East Boston’s waterfront can transform the entire neighborhood.”
Conley added that he would also push for a thoroughfare to link Maverick Square to Orient Heights.
“Great communities tend to have a main artery joining important commercial and social hubs in the neighborhood,” said Conley. “East Boston has them in spades, but we need a Main Street that will join them all together. I want to invest in a Main Street for East Boston that binds together Maverick Square, Day Square, Orient Heights, and points in between.”
Mayoral Candidate Dan Conley unveils his five-point action plan for East Boston last Thursday at LoPresti Park. The plan includes the removal of the Sumner Tunnel toll plaza.