Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Worcester must think bigger

The airport is a gem, and could help revive Worcester as a city with a viable economic life of its own. The airport would make Worcester a prime location from which companies with national or international markets, connections or branches could do business. Plus a lot of Worcester travel dollars that end up in Rhode Island or New Hampshire could be kept here.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that what is stopping the Airport is lack of a good road. Yes, folks from Worcester will find their way to it, but most folks from the larger market, Worcester County, have no interest in driving Worcester's streets if they can help it. Moreover building the road could generate a lot of jobs.

Worcester failed to agree on an airport highway, and that was a political failure. The top-down model that worked so well in the 50's and 60's when we built the Interstate Highway system doesn't work anymore. What would be needed is a genuinely open and participatory model where the interests of the entire City and the interests of the folks whose homes or neighborhoods might be displaced by the highway can be worked out.

If we are willing to think big - and given this economy, with its high unemployment rates and ridiculously low interest rates, willing to think big about big projects that could put a lot of people to work is a good idea - what Worcester really needs to become a modern city is a belt highway. Looping around the city, connecting with the Pike in Shrewsbury and Grafton, passing near the Airport. People from downtown Worcester would still use Chandler St. or Main St. but the belt highway would open it to the rest of the County, and open up development opportunities for modern industrial, information tech and other companies the way Route 128 and I495 did.

Then if we still couldn't get a commercial carrier, we should start a municipal air line with no-frills service to major Eastern cities to jump-start it.

Worcester needs to think bigger!
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