ANDOVER — Congressman Seth Moulton kicked off his speech at the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Congressional Breakfast by touting one of his pet policies — revitalizing transportation throughout the state.
“We literally have the worst traffic in the nation,” he said, “and several studies have shown that it is the single biggest thing that is holding the Massachusetts economy back.”
Moulton, D-6th District, who has a dual master’s degree in business and public policy from Harvard, was the mastermind behind a traffic study released by the Kennedy School in December that explored the hidden costs of driving in Massachusetts. The study found that the total cost of the state’s “vehicle economy” is a whopping $64.1 billion a year.
“(Think about) how much every single one of you in real dollars puts into our highways every single year, whether you drive to work or train or whatever else,” he said to a packed room of Chamber members at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Andover. “The numbers are pretty astounding.”
Another guest speaker at the event — themed “a special report from Washington” — was Congresswoman Lori Trahan, D-3rd District. She began her speech by mentioning the bipartisan bills she said she has successfully championed during her first year in office, including a bill that would prevent sexual assault in the armed forces.
“I work with Republicans every day and I do see a path of us working together,” she said.
“When you start your first year in the midst of a government shutdown and end in an impeachment, it can be a bit disorienting,” she later added.
Businesses represented at the breakfast included National Grid, Align Credit Union, Eastern Bank and Columbia Gas, which was responsible for the Merrimack Valley gas disaster of 2018.
“We are part of the community and we are working hard every day to ensure safety and reliability,” said Kelly Merritt, Columbia Gas communications manager for the Merrimack Valley.
“We have been making safety improvements and we intend to be part of the community for a long time,’’ Merritt said.
In July, Columbia Gas and its parent company NiSource agreed to pay $143 million to residents and businesses affected by the gas explosions of Sept. 13, 2018.
Following their speeches at the Chamber breakfast, the members of Congress took questions from the audience, addressing issues such as Medicare for All and affordable housing.
Karen Frederick, the CEO of Community Teamwork, a regional housing agency, asked what could be done about the growing population of residents paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing alone. She said every three years her organization does a community needs assessment and she has observed a growing number of Massachusetts residents, especially senior citizens, who are having trouble paying their rent.
“It’s a growing crisis of people who are calling us about the instability of their housing,” she said, adding, “There has to be some kind of response or we are going to see another increase in the homeless population.”