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Transportation Breakdowns Threaten Boston’s Lofty Life Science Status

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Kendall Square Skyline
The Kendall Square skyline

For years, Boston has worn the crown as the world’s leading life science cluster. But the region’s ongoing infrastructure problems are threatening the viability of future growth in the biotechnology sector. 

Biopharma jobs in Massachusetts grew by 74,256 in 2018, the largest increase in 11 years, according to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council’s annual industry report. The number of people working in the industry in the Bay State has increased by 35%, the Boston Globe reports

But finding a way to fix congested highways and a broken subway network is key to maintaining that momentum. 

“The future struggle for the industry is making sure that the state’s infrastructure, specifically transportation, is able to sustain this type of growth and make sure it’s able to work for our companies and employees,” MassBio Vice President of Programs and Global Affairs Elizabeth Steele told the Globe. 

MassBio conducted a survey of biotech commuters in the region, and Steele said the report, which will be released next month, shows how passionate people have become over the region’s transportation issues. While this year’s survey got 2,000 responses, the last one in 2016 only attracted 300 people. 

The June 11 Red Line derailment at the JFK/UMass station severely reduced service on the subway line, which runs through Kendall Square, the region's leading cluster of life science activity. Three dozen employers in the neighborhood wrote a collective letter to state officials two weeks later urging leaders to address the “state of emergency.”

Transportation problems aren’t limited to Boston. 

The Counselors of Real Estate identified infrastructure as the top issue facing commercial and residential real estate in its most recent annual survey of leading matters for industry participants. It was a main reason why President Donald Trump's campaign drew support from the industry — although the promised $1.5 trillion infrastructure package was finally unveiled last year, there has been no legislative movement on it since.