We are grateful for today’s legislative decision to dedicate an average of $600 million per year to transportation.
Good progress was made this year in meeting Massachusetts’ critical transportation needs. The transportation finance bill, now law, will close funding gaps, help repair roads and bridges, cap MBTA fare increases to 5% every two years, put our regional transit agencies on solid financial footing, and make down payments on much-needed projects. While not a comprehensive solution to our transportation crisis, the law is a solid foundation that begins to address the chronic underfunding of our rails, roads, sidewalks and bikeways.
I believe we all understand that this is only the beginning, and that the job is not done. We don’t see the passage of the transportation bill as a time to pause but instead as a time to move ahead. Now, we need to ensure that the new funding is spent fairly and wisely in every part of the state. As we look to next year, we echo the Senate President’s remarks that the state needs to sustain its commitment to ensuring sufficient and stable funding so that all our residents have access to safe, reliable, and affordable transportation choices.
Reform of our transportation agencies, which began in 2009, will continue under this new law. The legislature included policy provisions that create more transparency for decisions about how to spend transportation funds. The law calls for a statewide plan that uses objective criteria, not politics, to prioritize needs and projects. Not every project will be able to funded with the limited funding provided by the bill. Hard choices will have to be made.
But this new law can usher in fresh, data-based, thoughtful and transparent decision-making. We call on the legislature to immediately appoint the project selection committee and on MassDOT to begin developing the statewide plan. The law also calls for the regional transit authorities throughout the state to develop blueprints for providing better bus service to connect workers and employers and serve students and elders.
Over the last year, there was a historic focus on funding transportation as residents, advocates, and business groups all called for increasing funding for transportation to boost our economy and improve the daily lives of every resident of the commonwealth. While there has been disagreement on how, and how much, to fund transportation, there is more common ground. All of our leaders acknowledged that Massachusetts needs action now.
We thank the governor for laying out a bold vision. We thank the legislature for continuing the work of transportation reform. We are also grateful to have worked with the many legislators who strengthened the bill as it moved through the legislative process.
It is imperative that all sides work together going forward, for the sake of our transportation network and the economy of Massachusetts. We look forward to the work ahead.