The collective focus on transportation over the last year — by the governor, the legislature, the business community, and advocates — is truly unprecedented. While the pending transportation funding bill does not have the level of revenue needed to address all our statewide transportation needs, it sets a strong foundation on which we can build.
Friday’s veto by the governor of transportation and local aid line items in the state budget is the latest development in the back-and-forth between the legislature and the governor over the amount of funding in the transportation bill. The ball is now in the legislature’s court, which will take up the governor’s amendment to the transportation bill later this week. The House and Senate will also consider whether to override the governor’s budget vetoes.
As the governor and the legislature work out their differences, it is worth noting that there is much common ground. What the governor and the legislature do agree on is that a better transportation system is vital to our economy, our quality of life, and our environment. By advancing the issue this far, it is clear our elected leaders agree that it is time to invest in improving transportation. The transportation funding now being considered will close funding gaps, repair roads and bridges, forestall MBTA fare increases, put our regional transit agencies on solid financial footing, and make down payments on much-needed projects.
Once the bill becomes law, there will be more work to do. Reform, which began in 2009, will continue. Not every needed project will be able to funded; hard choices will have to be made, with input from advocates, business and civic leaders, and the public.
And despite the positive step forward this legislation takes, the conversation on paying for transportation will have to continue. Transportation has been chronically underfunded for decades, and will require a sustained commitment in the coming years. The legislature and the governor need to return to transportation funding in the next session, find consensus on the best ways to support and expand our transportation system, and keep moving Massachusetts forward.