Could have major impact on Berkshire tourism, economy


The MassDOT Board and Transportation Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey today announced a plan for the next generation of transportation investment in the Commonwealth: The Way Forward: A 21st Century Transportation Plan.

The long-term financing plan shows that the state needs $684 million to operate the same system we have today. The plan calls for an additional investment in our transportation assets of $5.2 billion over ten years in road and highway repair in order to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges and ease congestion on major arteries throughout the state; $3.8 billion to invest in existing transit services; and $275 million for Registry and airport maintenance.

In addition, the plan identifies a number of high-impact transportation projects across Massachusetts that, if built, will create thousands of jobs and spur economic development across the Commonwealth. In all, the plan identifies a $1.02 billion average additional need each year to create a 21st-Century transportation network.

“The plan released today is a stark, clear-eyed, non-partisan presentation of the facts,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “If we are serious about improving our transportation system for a generation, then we have to be willing to make the necessary investments. We must invest in transportation, not for the sake of transportation itself, but for the jobs and economic opportunity it creates.”

Regional Transit Authorities — $100 million in FY14; $1.1 billion over 10 years
This additional investment will allow the RTA’s to end the practice of borrowing, with interest costs, to fund annual operating costs by instead forward-funding each agency. Beginning in FY15, the additional $100 million will be used to expand RTA service by adding hours of operation, increasing frequency on existing routes and adding new service.

Included in the 10 year list of investments are:

Chapter 90 ($1.0 billion) – An additional $100 million per year to help the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns improve local roads and bridges.

Bridge program ($1.175 billion) – Funds a new targeted program modeled after the successful Accelerated Bridge Program (which ends in 2016) to accelerate repair to local bridges and complete several larger bridges.

RTA Vehicles ($400 million) – Funds a 10-year program to replace regional buses that have exceeded their useful life, add buses for expanded service and support replacement of other equipment and facility upgrades, resulting in fewer delays and improved reliability.

Multimodal Highway Program ($1.25 billion) – Funds a statewide portfolio of local and regional projects designed to improve safety, reduce the number of high crash locations and reduce congestion. This also includes $250 million for the transportation assets owned by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

Highway Preservation Facilities & Systems ($400 million) – Targeted funding for a municipal small bottlenecks program; safety and operational improvements at depots; deployment of roadside traffic and travel information; equipment procurements and completion of an integrated asset management system.

Rail between Springfield and Boston ($362.4 million) – Passenger rail service directly connecting Boston with Springfield via what is known commonly as the Inland Route. Funding will cover rehabilitation along the route, creating a second track, widening bridges, upgrading signals purchasing train equipment, and constructing or rehabilitating stations. This will also support future high-speed rail connection to New York City via Springfield.

Berkshires to NYC Rail ($113.8 million) – Rehabilitation of track, signals and structures between Pittsfield and the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line to support future rail service between Pittsfield and New York City. The current line is served by freight carriers and is not up to standards necessary for commuter service.

Rail to Cape Cod ($20.8 million) – Seasonal service on weekends between Boston and Hyannis. Upgrades rail, grade crossings, bridges and station accessibility. Service during the summer season will connect a key tourist destination with Boston.

The 21st-Century Transportation Plan follows the 2009 Transportation Reform Act, which significantly altered the way our transportation system functions. Through that reform, MassDOT has saved more than $500 million through internal consolidations and efficiencies and employee benefit changes, improved its business practices, and enhanced customer service through the greater use of technology.

The plan identifies other potential reforms MassDOT is exploring including a move to all-electronic tolling on the MassPike and other tolled assets; modernization of Registry of Motor Vehicles services; greater Performance Management to measure progress and identify areas of improvement; a fully-integrated asset management system, further MBTA retirement changes; and additional partnership opportunities with the Massachusetts Port Authority. These reforms would help MassDOT improve the customer experience and address a portion of the $1.02 billion in additional revenue needed each year.

However, the report also acknowledges the need for additional revenue to meet its ambitious goals. Included in the plan are suggested revenue options proposed by members of the public and other stakeholders over the last year.

Those recommendations include an increase in the gas tax, payroll tax, sales tax or income tax; a new green fee on vehicle registrations; a vehicle miles traveled tax; regular and modest fare, fee and toll increases; and new tolling mechanisms. The plan also assumes that tolls are maintained on the Western portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Without new revenues, the MassDOT Board of Directors will need to cut service at the MBTA and RTAs and significantly increase fares in order to approve a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which begins July 1.

To read the complete plan and see a full list pf proposed projects, click here.