Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker
BOSTON—Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed floating an $18-billion transportation bond that would include nearly $6 billion to modernize the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
The bill entitled “Authorizing and Accelerating Transportation Investment” includes a series of initiatives from the administration to combat congestion on the Commonwealth’s roadways, including establishing a tax credit to encourage telecommuting and remote working, expanding the use of designated bus lanes and transit signal priority, as well as creating a program designed to reduce bottlenecks on local roadways.
The governor’s proposal announced on Thursday would earmark $10.1 billion for MassDOT Highway Division construction projects.
“This bond bill reflects our ongoing commitment to increasing the capability of MassDOT and the MBTA to carry out construction projects to ensure that residents throughout the Commonwealth have access to safe and reliable travel options,” said Gov. Baker. “Millions of people rely on Massachusetts’s roadways and transit systems to get to work every day, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to pass this transportation bond bill into law.”
In addition to approximately $5.7 billion earmarked for the MBTA, $150 million will fund pavement improvements on state roads, $20 million will ensure municipalities have resources needed to continue efforts to build “Complete Streets” infrastructure to encourage the public to travel more on foot and by bicycle and $70 million is slated to go to the Municipal Small Bridge Program.
The bill reauthorizes and expands the special revenue bond Rail Enhancement Program to support $2.7 billion for MBTA investments over the next 10 years beyond those funded in the five-year capital plan. The bonding will help fund planning studies and pilots to support the reinvention of both the bus and commuter rail systems, make rail service improvements throughout the Commonwealth and invest in infrastructure power and resiliency, according to the governor’s office.
It also authorizes $1.25 billion in Grant Anticipation Notes to support an expanded bridge program—the Next Generation Bridge Financing Program—ensuring that a total of approximately $4 billion will be available over the next eight years to invest in bridge preservation and reconstruction. This funding exceeds the size of the recently-completed Accelerated Bridge Program.
If the bill passes, MassDOT would be provided with the tools and resources to advance its goals of having 70% of non-interstate pavement in good or excellent condition, state officials said. MassDOT would also be empowered to continue moving towards the goal of less than 10% of the bridge deck area of National Highway System bridges in poor condition.
The bond would also fund initiatives and project geared to combating road congestion. The bill authorizes $330 million for capital support to the 15 Regional Transit Authorities to invest in fleets and facilities, including bus electrification. A new $50-million Transit Infrastructure Partnership Program will provide grants enabling transit authorities and municipalities to work together to provide bus lanes, transit signal priority and other infrastructure to keep buses moving. Other authorizations would support investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and water transportation and address the need to make transportation infrastructure more resilient in the face of a changing climate.
Other provisions of the proposed legislation would allow investments to be made using methods and procedures that balance safety, efficiency and reliability. For example, the bill would enable the MBTA to partner with developers willing to build or improve transit infrastructure to expedite the distribution of public benefits, and use well-established procurement methods such as Job Order contracting for smaller projects. MassDOT and the MBTA would be authorized to follow a streamlined process for entering into public-private partnerships and use Design-Build project delivery for all projects, including those with budgets under $5 million.
In anticipation of a report on congestion currently being completed by MassDOT, the legislation also includes two new congestion reduction programs that provide incentives to encourage employers to keep workers off the road during peak congestion times and offer a tax credit for companies that support employees who work from home or remote locations.
A new $50-million Local Bottleneck Reduction Program will fund proven, low-cost investments to address local congestion hotspots. These would include smart signaling, improved traffic signage, new roadway striping and minor configuration and access changes.