Blog: Let’s Make It Last: Investing our Transportation Dollars Wisely

Rafael Mares

Conservation Law Foundation

Since Governor Patrick proposed his plan to raise revenue for transportation and education, a lot of time has been spent on discussing the merits of the revenue sources he has chosen.  In comparison, relatively little time has been devoted to how such money should be spent. The great American humorist Evan Esar once wisely said, “The mint makes it first, it is up to you to make it last.”

Transportation for Massachusetts has worked closely with Representatives Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield, Representative Carl Sciortino of Medford, Senator Katherine Clark of Melrose, and others to draft legislation that addresses this side of the coin.  In addition, Transportation for Massachusetts helped develop a bill that could prepare Massachusetts for better ways to raise revenue for transportation in the future.  In total there are currently three great bills pending that Transportation for Massachusetts helped develop.

 

Here they are:

An Act relative to transportation investment, regional fairness, and accountability to state policies (HD 3119 introduced by Rep. Farley-Bouvier, Rep. Sciortino, and S. 1670 by Senator Clark) will guide any transportation investments the legislature and the governor agree on to build a financially stable, safer and more modern transportation system in every corner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This bill would:

  • Eliminate the unsustainable practice of paying for day-to-day operational costs of our highway system by borrowing through state bonds (currently, MassDOT is spending roughly $1.75 for every $1.00 borrowed because of the interest on the bonds);
  • Require that an equitable portion of transportation revenue benefit all regions throughout the Commonwealth;
  • Set aside funding for Gateway Cities and environmental justice neighborhoods to plan and design projects that are eligible for federal transportation money. This would allow these communities to invest in projects that residents care most about—such as fixing roads and bridges, improving Regional Transit Authorities,  and investing in sidewalks, bike lanes, and other projects that promote transit oriented development and affordable housing;
  • Require that transportation projects comply with existing policy goals and objectives that reduce pollution, improve public health, improve land-use coordination and meet our mode shift goals;
  • Require that transportation investments over $15 million be analyzed for their impact on our economy, environment, public health, low-income communities and communities of color, pedestrian and bike access, and cost of operations;
  • Ensure that sufficient money is available for critical maintenance and safety investments; and
  • Support the state’s existing mode shift goal to triple trips made on public transportation, biking and walking across the Commonwealth.

 

An Act relative to contract assistance for Central Artery debt of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (H. 3141 introduced by Rep. Sciortino) proposes a way to address the crippling debt load at the MBTA by paying down the debt related to the Central Artery Project.  The legislation would require that the Commonwealth provide contract assistance from the Commonwealth Transportation Fund for the Big Dig debt held by the MBTA. This money couldn’t come out of funds that are already set to support investments at the MBTA or RTAs.

An Act relative to the establishment of a vehicle mileage user fee pilot program by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation(H. 3142 introduced by Rep. Farley-Bouvier and Rep. Sciortino) proposes a voluntary vehicle miles traveled pilot program to identify alternatives and supplements to the gas tax.  The pilot seeks 1000 volunteers from the entire Commonwealth to evaluate ways to protect data collected, ensure privacy, and vary pricing based on time of driving, type of road, proximity to transit and vehicle fuel in order to help Massachusetts prepare for the future of transportation revenue.

We are grateful to the legislative sponsors of these bills who share our commitment to creating and sustaining a 21st-century transportation system that serves all people in communities across the state.