The end of the Boston Olympics bid does not wipe the year 2024 from our collective calendar. As we either wallow or rejoice in the collapse of Boston 2024, we also need to think about the future. Less than a decade from now, summer sun will shine on Widett Circle, Columbia Point, Squantum Point Park, New Bedford Harbor, and every other potential venue for The Games That Never Were. What will they look like? Where do we go from here?
For the most part, Olympics boosters and opponents always agreed on some basic points: Boston is a great city, but we need to do more to improve the lives of our fellow citizens, particularly on the critical issues of transportation, housing, and infrastructure. So let’s keep the postmortems to a minimum and get to work immediately on the future.
First, we all agree the MBTA needs help. Governor Baker and the Legislature are already working on the management side, but we all know the system is in desperate need of new funding. Ironically, many of the people working to stop the Olympics are the same people who killed the gas tax last year, cutting off a vital funding option for the T and transportation infrastructure in general. So let’s regroup and get on the same page. Transition the Olympic ballot question effort to a new question on adequately funding the MBTA, as well as our roads and bridges.
Second, the city and the BRA should proceed with planning for future neighborhood development at the former site of the Bayside Expo Center, as well as Widett Circle. Bring in the owners and neighbors of Newmarket Square for discussions on the best future development of the neighborhood. Leave the bidding process and potential tax credits on the table. We remain in desperate need of workforce and affordable housing, and both locations offer access to the MBTA and the Expressway. The same goes for other potential venues across the Commonwealth. Let’s look for new opportunities to maximize our incredible resources.
Third, let’s fix the highways, particularly the Southeast Expressway. Much was made about the potential traffic the Olympics might bring, and the highway disruption that would be caused by construction in the years leading up to the Games. But the traffic on Boston’s main thoroughfare is already a complete joke, and it would be better to have seven years of disruptions caused by construction than two more decades of continued bottlenecks. We need to work together on traffic solutions now, with or without Olympic VIP lanes.
Finally, let’s make a peace. The acrimony that has developed in this city has been heartbreaking. The discussion on social media in particular has been downright nasty, and showcased some of the worst stereotypes that outsiders have about us. Let’s drop it now; let it go. Boston 2024 is staffed by smart, hard-working people who are truly committed to creating a better future for Boston. They will be looking for jobs, but hopefully not for long. The same goes for No Boston Olympics. The lead opponents risked their careers to speak out publicly against the Boston business and political establishment. They are passionate, gifted executives who in some cases sacrificed their jobs for this effort. Hire them — hire people from both sides of this debate. They should all be involved in the future planning of this city.
The Boston Olympics are dead. The year 2024 is alive and well. Let’s put all the rancor of the past eight months behind, and come together to create as many of the potential positive benefits as we can. Boston is a world-class city. Let’s prove it.
Conor Yunits was a cofounder of No Boston Olympics and later became a supporter of Boston 2024.