STEP is a community group dedicated to improving transportation in Somerville, MA. We advocate for the Green Line extension, a more livable city, and public health issues.
It is a critical time to let your legislators know that you want a real solution to the state’s transportation finance situation to address current fiscal needs, meet needed Chapter 90 funds for cities and towns, address state of good repair needs, procure needed new equipment and fund the Green Line extension.
STEP has written the following letter, which anyone is more than welcome to use, modify, or add to.
Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance: “Half a loaf: the Legislature’s transportation plan”
“I believed that we had the chance to set a visionary course for a post-Big Dig transportation system. It’s like having the opportunity to invest in an exciting new business, but instead you just pay off one of your credit cards.”
Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center: “The Joint Ways & Means Transportation Proposal”
Conservation Law Foundation: “MA Transportation Funding Framework: More (or really less) to the supposedly budget-minded proposal than meets the eye”
“The framework would not cover the maintenance of our transportation system, nor keep it in a state of good repair, let alone allow for any investment in modernization.”
CommonWealth Magazine: “Fear and loathing on the tax trail”
“Census data show that, as a share of their income, Massachusetts residents pay an exceedingly average tax bill. The Bay State’s overall tax bill falls squarely in the middle of the 50 states.”
State Senator Pat Jehlen’s newsletter
“I believe the Green Line Extension will be built anyway because it is legally required under the legal agreement between the state and Conservation Law Foundation to mitigate the Big Dig, and under the State Improvement Plan which is enforceable by the federal government under the Clean Air Act. But if we don’t have an adequate plan to get to a state of good repair, the federal government will turn down our application for $550 million in federal New Starts money. As I told the Globe, that will leave the state to pick up the whole $1.3 billion tab, leaving little for other projects or other needed repairs.”
Boston Globe: “Mass. legislative leaders unveil $500m tax plan to shore up transportation system”
The plan, while it represents a significant tax increase, falls far short of the $1.9 billion tax hike that Governor Deval Patrick has been seeking and would not fund the major expansion of rail and road projects that the governor wants.
Kristina Egan, director of Transportation for Massachusetts, an advocacy group that had pushed for Patrick’s funding plan, called the proposal “woefully inadequate.” A lack of specific investments in capital projects, she said, was shortsighted and would prevent the state’s transportation infrastructure from accommodating the needs of residents.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to make a transportation fix for the next generation, and I’m worried that we’re squandering it here,” Egan said. “It feels like this package is locking in chronic underfunding.”
Richard A. Dimino, president of A Better City, said the absence of capital projects in the legislature’s $500 million bill would mean that the state would possibly lose out on federal money for projects like the Green Line extension that are dependent on matching funds from the state government.
“Massachusetts voters see the potential benefits of raising additional revenue for transportation improvements and are open to several possible sources of revenue, according to a report on a series of polls and focus groups released today by MassINC and The MassINC Polling Group. Detailing how funds will be spent appears to boost that support, the research finds.” Read more.
The bond bill includes over $1.3 billion “for the purpose of implementing the Green Line Extension improvements; provided, that funds may be used for transportation planning, design, permitting and engineering, acquisition of interests in land, vehicle procurement, construction, construction of stations, and right-of-way acquisition.”
Mass.gov: “Governor Patrick Files Transportation Bond Bill”
Included: “$4.4 billion for regional rail projects identified in the Transportation Plan including Green Line expansion, South Coast Rail and South Station expansion”
State House News Service: “Two expansion projects will add $60 million to MBTA budget”
“The fate of both projects is contingent on the state’s ability to finance the construction and operations, a capacity issue that’s at the center of ongoing debate over Patrick’s call to raise taxes and generate $1.9 billion a year in new state revenues….The Federal Transit Administration has required the state to shore up the transit system’s finances in order for the state to qualify for New Starts funding for the Green Line Extension, which could fund half of the $1.3 billion capital cost.”
Somerville Journal: “Transportation key to Somerville’s future”
“We now have a unique opportunity to restore our transportation system and we must not let it pass. With crumbling roads and bridges, severely outdated MBTA vehicles, and the specter of further cuts to transit service, addressing the transportation funding gap can’t wait. When we invest in transportation, we invest in those things we all care about: jobs, the economy, education, a better quality of life, and our environment.”
James Aloisi’s three short articles have excellent background information on our state’s increasingly dire transportation finance crisis, as well as thoughtful proposed solutions that go well beyond previous efforts that merely kicked the can down the road.
Part 1: The case for funding public transportation
Part 2: Reform before revenue was the wrong answer
Part 3: Five transportation funding solutions
Boston Globe: “Massport should help solve T mess”
“Forward Funding dumped billions of dollars of state debt on to the MBTA, and assumed without reason that growing costs of service expansion into lower-density suburbs could be supported on a tax base that is static. Twelve years later, this dramatic change of state policy has eroded the financial stability of the MBTA, and led directly to the current crisis.”