Maura In The News

Menino vows to fix streets, sidewalks
Councilor's efforts not credited in plan
By Kevin Joy, Boston Globe Correspondent | May 19, 2004

Needled for a year by a city councilor's crusade to rid Boston of potholes, Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday he will spend $12.8 million to fix streets and sidewalks -- repaving, repairing, and in some cases, totally reconstructing crumbling pieces of streetscape.

"Boston residents deserve the best roads and sidewalks," Menino said in a statement. "From motorists on their way to work to children on their way to school, this new program will benefit everyone in Boston's neighborhoods."

Menino's announcement came on the heels of plans by City Councilor Maura A. Hennigan for a new phase in what she called her "ongoing struggle to combat street and sidewalk hazards." The councilor at large -- who broke her ankle after tripping on a pothole during a parade last year, and who is widely discussed as a possible mayoral candidate -- began circulating petitions in neighborhood shops and on her website to push Menino to make street repairs.

"Bostonians deserve to have walkable sidewalks and drivable streets without fear from injury or damage," Hennigan said in her own statement.

Menino's spokesman, Seth Gitell, said the resurfacing project had been planned for months and had nothing to do with Hennigan's announcement. He said some of the repair projects have already begun and the program will continue until the city's construction season ends Nov. 15.

"Mayor Menino cares about the lifeblood of this city. He wants to make it shine," Gitell said. "This is an extension of that commitment."

Gitell said he anticipated that some of the funds would be used for preparing public roads both downtown and near the FleetCenter before the Democratic National Convention in late July, but could not say how much of the total funding it comprised. "It's a citywide effort," he added.

Hennigan, a longtime critic of Menino, said she has no plans to let up and will continue soliciting petition signatures until every pothole in the city is fixed.

"Where are these streets and hazards that are being repaired? For city residents, is this going to mean their neighborhood, their street, their business area?" Hennigan said, questioning the project's promise to benefit all neighborhoods. "I just can't think of a good excuse why they can't repave everything. The money is there."

Hennigan criticized the city's practice of allowing utility companies and others to make only temporary fixes to street cuts they make. The city charges those companies a fee and makes permanent repairs itself, but Hennigan said that system only delays repairs. At a hearing on potholes last month, she proposed to apply standards set by the state's Department of Telecommunications and Energy that would allow contractors and utilities to perform permanent repairs themselves.

But Public Works Commissioner Joseph F. Casazza said a big part of the city's pothole problem comes from utility companies that improperly patch holes after laying cable or fixing pipes, with a process called backfilling. "The quality of [utility] work needs to be improved," said Casazza, pointing out that backfilling done correctly will last until the city can repair an entire section of pavement.

Casazza said he disagreed with Hennigan's petition and assertions. Performing a permanent fill on a street needing other repairs or engaged in construction work wastes money, he said, and allowing private utility companies to make their own permanent repairs would result in heavy traffic and potentially poor work.

Hennigan has made potholes a refrain since she fell and broke her ankle in a pothole while marching in the Haitian Unity Day Parade last May. She has held a series of hearings on the issue and her office maintains a website for constituents to report and track potholes.

"I am pleased we're making progress," Hennigan said, pointing out that roads looked noticeably smoother when she marched in this year's Unity Day parade on Sunday. "We have just begun the fight. Every time we push, we get better results."


? Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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