Paul Levy is the President and CEO of Beth Israel Deconess Medical
Center in Boston. He blogs about his
experiences at, Running a Hospital, one of the few blogs we know of maintained by a senior hospital executive.
A recent Boston Globe story
by Stephanie Ebbert about squabbling between two state agencies
involved in the rehabilitation of a local bridge has prompted me to
start a new occasional series on this blog. People who don't know about
my lives before health care may not know that I am an infrastructure
junkie. For reasons my daughters consider very odd, I love roads,
bridges, sewage treatment plants, electricity cables, and the like. If
you are not interested in this topic, stop reading, but from time to
time, I'm going to relate stories to you about this field, but mainly
positive ones, where creative public officials and others have made the
fabric of urban life better for the public — in ways that never, ever
make the newspapers.
Here's the first. Back in 1999 or so, I was
Administrative Dean at Harvard Medical School. Connie Cepko, one of our
faculty members, called one day. Her complaint: Riding to work on her
bicycle every day, she noticed that the Longwood Avenue bridge over the
Muddy River and the MBTA tracks was full of dangerous potholes. What
could I do about this, she wondered.
Actually, I knew that I
could do nothing, at least within a normal human lifespan. That bridge
is a jurisdictional nightmare. It is at the border of two
municipalities (Boston and Brookline), spans a transit line (MBTA), and
also goes over a state park (owned at that time by the Metropolitan
District Commission). Just figuring out who would be responsible for
the road paving would take decades, much less getting the right person
to order a repair.
So, I called Rick Shea, who was the President of MASCO,
our non-profit planning and service entity for the schools and
hospitals in the Longwood Area. The next day, Connie called to thank me
for getting the potholes filled and a new, smooth surface on the
bridge. "My pleasure," I replied, wondering what happened.
called Rick and he said, "I knew it would be impossible to find someone
of authority to make this repair, so I just hired an asphalt firm and
had the work done. Each jurisdiction — if they noticed — probably
thought it was the responsibility of another. Therefore, no complaints.
Job accomplished. Happy to help."