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November 07, 2009
Patriots' bridge to nowhere to get stimulus money?
It looks like we may have a winner for first stadium-related project funded with federal stimulus dollars: The state of Massachusetts is moving ahead with a plan to spend $9 million in stimulus money on a footbridge between two parking lots that serve the New England Patriots' Gillette Stadium.
If the bridge funding gets final approval from a regional planning board later this month, it will beat out a slew of other projects that have been rumored to be considered using stimulus money: an arena in Kalamazoo, the Columbus Blue Jackets' arena, a minor-league baseball stadium in Illinois, etc. Most of these would use subsidized federal bonds approved under the stimulus bill — the Pats seem to be the only ones looking to funnel stimulus cash directly into stadium-related construction.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts secretary of housing and economic development Greg Bialecki made himself the early front-runner for the Nobel Prize in Kool-Aid Drinking by asserting that his state is losing businesses to other states because of its failure to provide public subsidies for private businesses, and that that "is a habit that the Patrick administration is trying very hard to break." (Actual studies show that subsidies have very little impact on business relocation decisions.) Bialecki added that the question shouldn't be whether the Patriots owners could pay for the bridge themselves, but rather: "Is the public investment we're making likely to increase private job creation? And if it is, then it's a good thing to do."
Of course, if the Kraft family is interested enough in developing the parking lot that they'd build the bridge themselves, then the "increase" in private job creation from the subsidy is zero. Or if they'd build it with a smaller subsidy, then the same holds true for the excess subsidy amount. And there's no guarantee the development will even get built, or if it does that it won't just cannibalize commercial jobs from elsewhere in Massachusetts. I'm never going to get hired as a secretary of economic development, am I?