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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker recently testified before the state’s Joint Committee on Transportation to promote proposed legislation for an $18 billion transportation plan.
The legislation, known as “An Act Authorizing and Accelerating Transportation Investment,” would support the modernization initiatives that already are underway, provide resources for anticipated needs and reduce the impact of greenhouse gases.
Baker, who appeared before the Legislature on Oct. 8, was joined by state leaders, including Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority General Manager Steve Poftak. Baker urged the Legislature to act on the bill; the last day of formal sessions is Nov. 20.
“If the Legislature enacts something that resembles this piece of legislation by the end of this session, Massachusetts will have the biggest arsenal of tools and capabilities it has ever had to make our transportation network safer, cleaner and better able to service the needs and expectations of our residents and our communities,” Baker said during his testimony.
The bill would invest $500 million in municipal partners so they could develop transportation projects to meet their community needs. It also proposes new programs to manage regional and local traffic congestion. One example is the local bottlenecks program to target municipally owned infrastructure that presents congestion challenges.
The proposal devotes $10 billion for MassDOT highway construction projects and pavement and bridge repairs. It also proposes the Next Generation Bridge Financing Program, which would support $1.25 billion in bridge construction. This would build on the state’s previous Accelerated Bridge Program, which relied on accelerated construction techniques to complete projects. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, some 9% of Massachusetts’ bridges are structurally deficient.
“MassDOT and the MBTA’s investment strategy is focused on delivering the benefits of a revitalized and resilient transportation system to residents across the commonwealth, while also advancing projects that expand the reach of transit and target traffic bottlenecks,” Baker said. “Both are making up for lost time on deferred maintenance, while investing in new capacity and dramatically improving system reliability.”
Baker also mentioned plans to move forward with managed lanes, which use variable tolling or other restrictions to improve traffic flow. Baker identified such lanes as opportunities for MassDOT and MBTA to explore public-private partnerships.
“Done right, these lanes give a quicker trip to the people paying for the lane, as well as other users in buses and in van pools, and also for the drivers in the regular lanes who don’t have to deal with the traffic that’s now moved into the managed lanes,” Baker said.
The proposed bill contains another installment of $200 million per year in Chapter 90 funds. The Chapter 90 program reimburses cities and towns for approved projects. The funds apply to transportation purposes such as highway construction and preservation projects. To qualify for reimbursement through the program, cities and towns must submit receipts to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Highway Division office in their district.
Since he took office in 2015, Baker and his administration have awarded $1.1 billion in Chapter 90 funding to support all of Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns.
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