« PreviousContinue »
extended by the establishment of building lines, or upon the old plan of paying for all the land taken ; with the streets of the suburban districts plotted upon proper lines by the Board of Survey; there yet remained another class of streets, which has needed and received the attention of the City Government. I refer to radial thoroughfares leading from the city proper to the different suburban sections. Of the possible improvements of this character the more important have been provided for, in part or in whole, during the past four years : namely, the construction of Commonwealth avenue to Brighton ; the extension of Boylston street beyond the Back Bay park; the widening of Huntington avenue and Tremont street to Brookline; the extension of Columbus avenue; the construction in connection therewith of a proper approach to Franklin park; the widening and extension of Blue Hill avenue; and better means of communication between the city proper and the towns and cities to the north via a new bridge to Charlestown.
The extension of Commonwealth avenue along the line of what was formerly Brighton avenue, and its construction to the width of 160 feet, was undertaken in 1887 upon an appropriation wholly insufficient for the purpose. During the past four years $843,671.05 have been appropriated from loans and revenue for this improvement, and it is now substantially completed, with the exception of a new bridge over the tracks of the Boston & Albany Railroad, to cover tho cost of which an additional appropriation will be necessary. The avenue has lately been extended to connect with the new boulevard in Newton.
Boylston street has been extended to Brookline avenue, and its construction ordered under the provisions of a special law.
Huntington avenue and Tremont street have been widened so as to make an avenue 100 feet in width from Copley square to Francis street, and 80 feet in width from Francis street to the town of Brookline. Columbus avenue has been laid out from Northampton street to Franklin park.
The principle of the acts? under which Boylston street,
1 St. 1894, ch. 116 and ch. 439.
Columbus avenue, and Huntington avenue have been laid out, is that the city shall pay the entire first cost of land and construction, and then assess the entire benefit or betterment upon all estates deriving benefit therefrom. These laws are similar to that under which Oliver street was widened in 1867, and differ from the general betterment law of the Commonwealth in providing that the whole instead of onehalf the benefit may be assessed.
As to Blue Hill avenue, an order has been passed and approved widening this avenue to 120 feet from Warren street to the Neponset River at an estimated cost of $76,875. Construction will not be necessary for some years; but it was thought desirable to secure the widening while the land could be obtained at reasonable prices — particularly as the Metropolitan Park Commission has agreed to take as a parkway, and widen to 120 feet, Mattapan street in Milton, from the Neponset River to the Blue Hills reservation.
The first cost of these widenings and extensions is to be charged to the loans for "laying out and construction of highways ;” and the loan of $1,000,000 authorized for this purpose, together with the $300,000 loan for Columbus avenue, is sufficient to provide the money required by the orders of the Board of Street Commissioners.
There is need of an avenue on the e:ist side of the city from the business part, or at least from the South End, through Roxbury and Dorchester. The most available plan would probably be to widen Hampden street and extend it so as to connect with Blue Hill avenue. Columbia and Boston streets should also be widened, so as to make a proper connection between the Dorchester parkway and Franklin park. Brighton avenue and North Beacon street should also be widened.
In laying out these radial avenues, the Board of Street Commissioners can now set apart a special reservation for the street railir:y tracks; I and such reservations have been provided on Commonwealth avenue, Huntington avenue, and Blue Hill avenue.
1 St. 1894, ch. 324, accepted by the City Council Vorewber 3, 1894.
SECTION 2. Construction, Maintenance, etc. struction, paving, and repair of the public streets, as well as the cleaning and watering of them, is in charge of the Superintendent of Streets. The changes effected in the methods of cleaning and watering the streets have already been referred to.
The surface of the streets was in such poor condition four years ago as to be the cause of universal complaint, and it was necessary to expend large sums of money upon new and improved pavements. The liberal appropriations voted for this purpose hy the City Councils of 1891 to 1894 have been expended with, it seems to me, excellent results in respect to both the character and the cost of the work. On January 1, 1891, there was in the entire city but one short piece of block stone pavement laid upon a concrete base; there were no brick pavements, only 1,453 sq. yds. of block asphalt, and 54,070 sq. yds. of sheet asphalt. During the past four years the area of sheet asphalt pavements bas been increased to 107,074 sq. yds., and there are now 14,200 sq. yds. of block asphalt, 5,082 sq. yds. of brick pavements, and 54,404 sq. yds. of blockstone on concrete base.
As the business section of the city has been almost entirely repaved, and as the pavements of the residential section of the city have been very much improved, I do not think that large special appropriations for the Paving Division will be needed in the immediate future. The work of constructing the radial thoroughfares extending into the suburbs must be continued, probably by loan ; but I see no necessity for borrowing any considerable sums during the next few years for pavements.
As to the relative cost of the work of the Paving Division during the past four years, comparisons with previous administrations are difficult, if not impossible, for the reason that prior to 1891 the hooks of the department were kept in such a manner as to make it extremely difficult to ascertain the exact cost of anything. The entire book-keeping of the
1 See Annual Reports of the Citizens' Association for 1890, pp. 36-41.
department, as well as the whole system of letting contracts and purchasing materials, was reorganized by the late Superintendent of Streets ; and throughout his administration the books have been so kept as to make it possible, not only to ascertain the exact cost of every undertaking, but to facilitate comparisons with the work of succeeding adniinistrations. SECTION 3. Financial.
Financial. The money for the laying out, widening, and extension of streets, the construction of them, and their maintenance, repair, etc., comes either from the annual appropriations out of the tax levy and other sources of annual income, or from special loans, or from the loans for the " laying out and construction of highways" authorized by chapter 323 of the Acts of 1891. The cost of maintenance and repairs, and everything that can fairly be termed current expenditures, must, under the provisions of chapter 206 of the Acts of 1891, be paid out of taxes and income; while everything in the nature of permanent improvements may, and under the present tax linnit generally speaking must, be met by loan.
In this city the cost of street construction, like the cost of street widenings, sewers, and other similar improvements and conveniences, falls upon the general taxpayer to an extent that would not be tolerated in any other progressive community. Elsewhere, at least in all the larger cities of this country, substantially the entire cost of streets built for the development of real estate, including sewers,
sidewalks, and other conveniences, is assessed upon the abutters. In some cities a small percentage is paid by the municipal corporation, but in most of the large cities of this country the entire cost falls upon the land owners. This fact is of vital importance to a correct understanding of the problem of taxation in this city. Our taxes are admitteilly high; but this is largely due to the fact that the city — that is, the general taxpayer - is compelled in Boston to pay for local improvements which in other communities are charged upon the land.
See chapter 5, § 8.
I shall not encumber the pages of this message with a repetition of the arguments so frequently addressed by me to the City Council, and to committees of the Legislature, in favor of a complete change in our methods of providing for street, sewer, and sidewalk construction, and of the substitution of the assessment plan, under which all the other great cities of this country have been so rápidly built up, for the taxation plan in operation bere ; except to state that every day's experience in the past four years has covfirmed my belief in the wisdom and necessity of such a change.
It is not, as many persons are inclined to assume, a mere question of form ; it is not true that it makes no difference to the taxpayer whether the burden of street construction falls upon him in his annual tax bill for general municipal purposes or in the form of special assessments; and it is fallacious to argue that the burden of taxation in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, or Chicago would be equal to that of Boston if the special assessments levied in the former cities were included in estimating the real amount of taxation. It is not a question of form, but of substance; the real issue being, not the amount of the special assessments, nor the amount of taxation including them, but rather how the burden of these assessments shall be distributed.
The Boston system distributes the cost among the taxpayers at large, while under the other system the greater part, sometimes the whole, falls upon the estates particularly benefited, and those who cwn no such estates pay nothing. I believe the latter to be the correct theory; and I consider that the Boston plan is responsible, more than all other causes combined, for the relatively greater burden of taxation and debt in this city than in those communities which have been wise enough to adopt the assessment system.
The Legislature of 1891 was induced to take a great step in this much-needed reform ; the act creating the Board of Survey also providing for the construction of streets in the suburbav sections by assessment.
This law had no sooner been passed, however, than it was violently attacked by the speculators in suburban real estate ; and they had sufficient