While we lament that Bob DeLeo’s is the House Where Hope Goes To Die/Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, the Senate continues to do good and creative work — even in spite of, uh, recent distractions.
Sen. Eric Lesser has a Budget Amendment #1183 (keep track of all your favorites here!), which would allow for Regional Ballot Initiatives. This would allow the various regions of the state to raise their own funds for transportation projects … like Lesser’s beloved dream of rail from Boston to Springfield.
RBIs would empower regions like the Pioneer Valley, the Berkshires and the Cape, as well as Greater Boston and beyond, to supplement their state and federal transportation funding dollars with local revenues to advance their unique regional priorities.
As our infrastructure continues to crumble and our local transit authorities continue to face budget cuts across Massachusetts, it is no surprise that advocates ranging from municipal leaders like Easthampton’s Mayor Nicole LaChapelle to statewide organizations like the Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies, Transportation for Massachusetts and the LivableStreets Alliance have come out in support of RBIs as a way to close the funding gap.
Ultimately, Regional Ballot Initiatives would save money by helping regional planning agencies, city and town governments, and construction contractors budget and plan for local projects ahead of time, instead of waiting on state or federal funds to decide their fate.
Transportation funding always seems to hang on regionalism, the fear of folks on the Cape (e.g.) that they’ll have to pay for some Boston boondoggle; where Boston taxpayers retort (correctly, in my view) that we pay for the whole state’s highways and bridges that we don’t necessarily use. Regional equity is hard. This is a way to thread that needle.