By Bob Katzen
The House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that includes authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. The $350 million package, a bond bill under which the funding would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds, also includes $150 million to pay for bus lane improvements, improvement of public transit, electric vehicles and other state transportation projects.
Supporters said the funding will help cities and towns make their streets and bridges safer for all drivers and will improve the state’s public transportation system. They noted that this funding, known as Chapter 90, is relied on every year by local communities but noted that this is not the only source of local aid for cities and towns.
Rep. Bill Strauss (D-Mattapoisett), the House chair of the Transportation Committee and the sponsor of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment on passage of the measure. Déjà vu? Strauss did not respond last year to the same request on the 2022 funding for roads and bridges.
Many local officials across the state continue to advocate for additional money to increase the funding and argue that the cost of repairing roads has increased by up to 40 percent but the state has kept this funding flat at $200 million for the past 11 years.
Geoff Beckwith, the executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, is one of the biggest advocates for more Chapter 90 funding above the $200 million. “With the construction season starting in a matter of days, local officials are asking lawmakers to enact the Chapter 90 bill as soon as possible so that these funds can go to work improving local roadways,” said Beckwith.
He also urged additional funding beyond the $200 million. “With these funds secured as a base, cities and towns hope to work with the state on a long-range plan to offset the corrosive impacts of inflation, which is making it impossible to bring all 30,000 miles of local roads into a state of good repair,” he said.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $350 million package.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven Yes