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February 19, 2021 2:15 PM, EST

Massachusetts Bond Bill Includes Funding for Roads, Bridges and Transit

BakerGov. Charlie Baker signs a past bill. (Gov. Charlie Baker/Flickr)

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed a $16 billion transportation bond bill, which includes funding to modernize various modes of transportation.

Baker participated in a virtual ceremonial signing event with state officials and industry representatives Feb. 17. The legislation authorized funding to support the efforts of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

One major investment, representing $4.4 billion, was dedicated to federal-aid highway projects. Another $5.1 billion has been set aside for the MBTA in order to modernize the transit system. The legislation dedicates $100 million for a new Municipal Pavement Program, which will support projects on locally owned state-numbered roads.

“This [legislation] has an enormous number of really important elements in it,” Baker said during the event. “I love the fact that we have funding in there to deal with what I refer to as the lost children of our road network, which are the state-numbered local roads, which nobody thinks belong to anybody and as a result are probably in the worst shape of any roads in Massachusetts.”

The legislation includes $70 million for the Municipal Small Bridge Program, which assists cities and towns with efforts to replace or preserve bridges with spans between 10 and 20 feet. Each municipality may qualify for up to $500,000 in funding per year. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito noted small bridges provide vital connections, sometimes serving as constituents’ primary means of reaching school and work.

Some $50 million was authorized for the Complete Streets Funding Program, which offers technical assistance and construction funding to municipalities for projects designed to improve accessibility options. Another $100 million was dedicated to four new programs that will provide financial aid to local governments for infrastructure projects such as bus lane or signal efforts.

Another $20 million will support the Shared Streets and Spaces Program, which provides cities and towns with grants to ensure public spaces, such as sidewalks, plazas and parking areas, are safe for activity during the ongoing public health crisis.

“This transportation bond bill not only makes critical investments in each and every community, but I think it’s really essential to our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop). “We’re going to drive ourselves out of this pandemic on a path of recovery due to the investments in this bond bill.”

John Pourbaix, executive director of Construction Industries of Massachusetts Inc., commended the provision in the bill that allows for variable speed limits in construction zones. He said adjustable speed limits have the potential to protect workers and the motoring public.

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Founded in 1921, Construction Industries of Massachusetts is a trade association representing the state’s transportation and public works construction industry.

Prior to the pandemic, 90% of the daily trips in Massachusetts were made over roads and bridges, according to Pourbaix. He noted freight haulers, bus drivers, motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians depend on reliable infrastructure systems.

“This past year has highlighted the important role they have played as being the safest and most efficient mode for delivery of goods, services and people,” Pourbaix said.

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