By Bob Katzen

The Senate 39-0, approved a nearly $11 billion transportation and infrastructure package that includes $1.375 billion for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) modernization; $400 million for MBTA safety projects; $275 million for the East-West rail project; $1.27 billion for non-federally aided roads and bridges; and a provision that directs the MBTA and allows Regional Transit Authorities across the state to create a low-income fare program. The House has approved a different version of the package and a House-Senate conference committee will likely hammer out a compromise version.

Other provisions include $225 million for emissions reduction initiatives, including $50 million to support access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure; $114 million for airport improvements; $25 million for municipal road pavement improvements; and $407.7 million for local and regional transportation projects.

Of the more than 200 amendments filed by senators none came to a roll call vote. Many were simply approved or rejected one at a time on voice votes. To move things along even faster, the Senate also did its usual “bundling” of many amendments. Instead of acting on each amendment one at a time, dozens of the proposed amendments are bundled and put into two piles—one pile that will be approved and the other that will be rejected, without a roll call, on voice votes where it is impossible to tell which way a senator votes.

Senate President Karen Spilka, or the senator who is filling in for her at the podium, orchestrates the approval and rejection of the bundled amendments with a simple: “All those in favor say ‘aye,’ those opposed say ‘no.’ The ayes have it and the amendments are approved.” Or “All those in favor say ‘aye,’ those opposed say ‘no.’ The no’s have it and the amendments are rejected.” The outcome was predetermined earlier behind closed doors.

“This transportation bond bill provides Massachusetts with the key to unlock once-in-a-generation federal funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law,” Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Senate Chair of the Committee on Transportation. “With these combined state and federal investments, we will be able to complete vital work on our highways, roads, bridges and public transportation systems, improving mobility for all residents of the commonwealth.”

“While repairs to our transportation infrastructure will be beneficial to many communities across the commonwealth, this bill goes much further than merely repairing but will instead actively transform our infrastructure to be more modern, environmentally sustainable and regionally equitable,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “The support for electric vehicles, regional transportation authorities, low-income fares on public transit, expanded East-West connectivity and many other initiatives included in this bill will bring benefits to residents, visitors and businesses throughout Massachusetts.”

“Today’s passage of this multi-pronged … transportation infrastructure investment package builds on our longstanding commitment to ensure the commonwealth’s transportation system is more equitable, reliable, safe and modern,” said Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Going far beyond just roads and bridges, the Senate’s transportation bond bill will stimulate our economy, increase accessibility for our residents, support local businesses, create jobs, and boost economies in all corners of our commonwealth,” said Rodrigues.

(A “Yes” vote is for the package).

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

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