Massachusetts Senate approves transportation bond bill
July 23, 2020
Massachusetts state lawmakers are working out their differences on a transportation bond bill to cover a wide variety of infrastructure projects.
The Senate has voted to advance a $17 billion bond bill that would fund major transportation projects throughout the state.
The bill to authorize more debt to pay for transportation work addresses issues that include construction, regional initiatives, traffic congestion, and transportation network company data sharing.
“(The bond bill) helps us begin the critical work of improving our infrastructure and provides us with new tools to tackle our transportation challenges,” Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said in prepared remarks.
— Karen Spilka (@KarenSpilka) July 20, 2020
Among the allotments designated in the Senate bond bill is $5.6 billion for federally aided highways; $2 billion for highways with no federal aid; and $574 million for local and regional transportation projects.
The bond bill, H4547, would establish a special commission on roadway and congestion pricing. The commission would investigate and recommend options for regionally equitable roadway pricing mechanisms.
Regional ballot initiatives also would be permitted for cities and towns to pursue revenue for transportation-related projects.
“Far beyond roads and rail, this legislation seeks to improve the experiences for all those who utilize our roadway, including bikers and pedestrians,” said Sen. Joe Boncore, D-Winthrop.
The bond bill now heads to a conference committee made up of select lawmakers from both chambers. The move is necessary to reconcile differences between the versions approved by the House and Senate.
The House version approved in March called for tapping $18 billion in bonds. The chamber included vehicle tax and fee increases to cover transportation needs.
Specifically, a nickel increase in the gas tax was included. The diesel tax was targeted for a 9-cent rate hike.
Tax and fee increases were dropped from consideration by legislators following the disruption to the state’s budget since the coronavirus outbreak.
Gov. Charlie Baker has pursued a five-year, $18 billion bond bill to fund existing programs and initiatives intended to reduce roadway congestion and “ensure reliable travel throughout the Commonwealth.”
Specifically, the capital plan outlines $10.1 billion for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation highway division construction projects. Of that amount, $5.6 billion would be routed to federal aid highway construction and $3.1 billion would be designated for highway work not supported by the federal government. Another $1.25 billion would be applied for bridges and $150 million would be spent to pave area roads.
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