Mass. officials unveil $12B transportation plan
BOSTON (AP) — An ambitious plan unveiled by Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration on Friday seeks to modernize the state’s infrastructure by pumping billions of dollars into transportation, including new MBTA trains, road and bridge repairs, and all-electronic tolling.
The five-year, $12.4 billion capital investment plan is only a blueprint and there is no guarantee that all of the projects listed in it will actually receive the necessary funding to go forward. But the administration said it was the first time a fully unified approach had been presented covering all forms of transportation at the state and local levels.
“We invest in our transportation infrastructure because roads, rail and bridges create a foundation that support private sector investment and expanded opportunity for all our residents,” Patrick said in a statement.
The plan includes $1.3 billion to extend the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Green Line to Somerville and Medford, $835 million to replace aging Red Line and Orange Line trains, and $254 million for the preliminary stages of a proposed extension of commuter rail to the state’s SouthCoast region.
It would also provide more than $3 billion to maintain and rebuild outdated bridges around the state.
The Legislature last year approved a transportation financing bill, including a 3 cent per gallon hike in the gasoline tax and a $1 per pack cigarette tax increase, to provide up to $800 million in new annual revenue for transportation by 2018. Patrick had requested a larger tax package and said the final bill fell short of what was needed to address all of the state’s pressing long-term transportation needs.
In previewing the capital plan for the state’s transportation board earlier this week, Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said that while it would not accomplish all of the administration’s goals, it was still a “significant step forward.”
Davey warned, however, of the potential impact if voters approve a prospective ballot question that would prohibit the state from indexing future increases in the gasoline tax to inflation.
“Make no mistake, if the ballot question passes in November, our capital plan will be scaled back,” Davey told the board.
Supporters of the ballot initiative say the gas tax should not be allowed to increase automatically because of inflation without a vote being taken by lawmakers.
Other highlights of the transportation plan include:
— $160 million for implementation of an all-electronic tolling system on the Massachusetts Turnpike from Boston to the New York state border, so vehicles would no longer have to pass through tollbooths.
— $260 million to reconstruct the Interstate 91 viaduct in Springfield from the North End Bridge to the Memorial Bridge.
— $196 million for new buses and improved maintenances facilities for regional transit authorities.
— $31 million for permanent, seasonal passenger train service between Boston and Cape Cod.
— $99 million to modernize the motor vehicle license and registration renewal process.
Officials scheduled six public hearings on the plan, beginning Jan. 29 at the state transportation building in Boston.