Patrick seeks $2.9B transportation bond issue

BOSTON – Gov. Deval L. Patrick has filed a three-year, $2.9 billion transportation bond measure that he said is intended “to begin reversing years of neglect.” The commonwealth’s investment is expected to attract another $1.9 million in federal funds, giving the bond issue a total effective value of $4.8 billion, he said.
“The commonwealth needs a transportation system that improves our quality of life and serves as a catalyst for economic growth,” Patrick said in a statement. “Inadequate investment in our roads, bridges and public transit system over time has compromised those goals.”
The pavement on more than a quarter of state-owned roads is in “poor” to “fair” condition, the Mass. Transportation Finance Commission said in a report this March. And the National Bridge Inventory found that Massachusetts had the nation’s third-highest percentage of structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges.
“This legislation will allow us to address many of our most pressing transportation needs while we work toward long-term transportation reform,” Patrick said.
A portion of the money raised by the bond issue would be distributed to cities and towns to assist with their infrastructure needs. The measure calls for $500 million in Chapter 90 grants to improve local roads and bridges; $50 million in public works grants to support economic development; $15 million in transportation-related grants to communities with populations of 7,000 or less; and $20 million in “TOD” grants for communities that fund public infrastructure and affordable housing to support transit-oriented development.
The measure would reserve $40 million for improvements at regional airports, and another $25 million for investments in regional transit authorities, mobility assistance programs and water or intermodal transportation.
It also would allocate $100 million for rail and mass-transit planning efforts including the South Coast rail extension to Fall River and New Bedford, the Urban Ring project and the Blue Line extension. Another $75 million is allocated for the state’s share of the Fitchburg Commuter Rail improvement project.
The measure calls for the bonds, which would bear the designation “Special Obligation Revenue Transportation Improvement Loan Act of 2008,” to have a term of no longer than 30 years.
“The Massachusetts transportation system suffers from a history of deferred maintenance which will require nearly $20 billion in capital investments [identified in the TFC report],” Transportation and Public Works Secretary Bernard Cohen said in a statement. “This bond bill will allow us to begin to address that need.
“In addition to this bill,” he added, “we are developing a transportation reform package that will provide better coordination among transportation agencies and ensure our resources are utilized as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Additional information is available from the governor’s office at www.mass.gov.

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