Local transportation projects: let the people decide

October 05, 2015

On September 29, coalition members and other supporters of transportation testified in support of  S1474 and H2698, An Act Relative to Regional Transportation Ballot Initiatives. This legislation, sponsored by Senator Ben Downing and Rep. Chris Walsh, would allow cities and towns to ask voter approval to raise funds for local transportation projects. The Joint Committee on Revenue will consider this bill and, we hope, report it out favorably.  

Our coalition supports this legislation because it will give cities and towns an additional option, through a ballot measure, to fund vitally needed local and regional transportation investments. Across the Commonwealth, there are significant and unmet transportation needs at the state, regional, and local levels. We need to address overdue road repairs, structurally deficient bridges, transit infrastructure, trails and paths, and bike lanes, sidewalks and complete streets to serve all road users.

With a long backlog of projects, limited federal and state funding, allowing voters in local communities the option to raise revenue should be part of the solution to our transportation funding needs. Through this legislation, funds would be dedicated to transportation. While this will not close our well-documented statewide transportation funding gap, it is part of the solution.

Across the U.S., regional ballot initiatives are regularly used to finance transportation investments. The average rate of passage for transportation ballot initiatives is approximately 70%. In November 2014, 71% of the 59 initiatives on the ballot nationwide passed, according to research by the Center for Transportation Excellence. Because voters appreciate having a direct role - knowing that funds are dedicated by law to transportation, and knowing specifically what projects are being funded - these initiatives have a high rate of passage. 

There is already support for this concept in Massachusetts. MassINC Polling Group has found strong public support in polls conducted over the past three years. In 2015, 70% of respondents agreed that cities and towns should have “the authority to place transportation funding measures for their specific area on the ballot for voters to approve or reject,” and forty-five percent of voters strongly agreed. Similar polls in 2013 and 2012 found 75% and 73% of voters, respectively, agreed with this statement.

To contact your legislator in support of regional ballot initiatives, click here

Link to MAPC fact sheet

Link to PDF of our testimony


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