The Honorable Michael J. Finn, House Chair
The Honorable Edward J. Kennedy, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets
State House, Boston

Delivered electronically

Dear Chair Finn, Chair Kennedy, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,

On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, we appreciate the opportunity to provide the municipal perspective on H. 3546, An Act Financing Improvements to Municipal Roads and Bridges. We are grateful for Governor Healey’s prompt filing of the bill earlier this year and the Legislature’s swift consideration of this critical legislation.

In this 50th anniversary year of the Chapter 90 program, and in recognition of its importance to cities and towns, the MMA is respectfully urging the Legislature and Governor to support a critically needed increase to the Chapter 90 program’s authorization, with a target funding level of $330 million per year, indexed to grow with inflation.

As you know, Massachusetts roadways are a critical component of our statewide transportation network, necessary for the safe and efficient transport of goods and people. Our roadways are fundamental infrastructure to ensure resilience and stability in our economy and communities. The Chapter 90 program is the essential funding source to support cities and towns as they maintain the 30,000 miles of roads and bridges under municipal control (representing nearly 90% of all road miles statewide).

Preliminary analysis from MMA’s recent biennial Chapter 90 Survey estimates that cities and towns now need approximately $715 million, in fiscal 2024 alone, to ensure that local roads and bridges are maintained in a state of good repair. Further, climate change is affecting local roadway conditions by decreasing the lifespans of capital infrastructure, exacerbating funding needs. Roads that are in poor condition fail more quickly than in the past, adding urgency to the task of restoring roadways to a state of good repair. However, with tightly capped property taxes and limited fiscal capacity at the local level, communities do not have the resources to bring all their roads into a state of good repair and keep them there, which is why an increase in Chapter 90 funding is so critical.

Throughout the past 11 years, the Chapter 90 program has remained generally level-funded at $200 million. Over this time, the cost of road construction and maintenance has increased by 65.7%.1 Therefore, the real (inflation-adjusted) level of Chapter 90 support for local road projects has dropped to only one third of its fiscal 2012 purchasing power, to only $68.6 million today. Communities desperately need Chapter 90 to increase to $330 million to offset this loss in capacity. Otherwise, cities and towns will continue to fall further behind each year.

The MMA is grateful to the Legislature for various one-time infusions and supplemental programs to also support municipal road infrastructure in recent years, including the $100 million in Winter Recovery Assistance Program funding enacted just last year, which aided communities in addressing immediate safety needs on their roadways. Further, we appreciate that the Joint Committee on Transportation added $150 million in various bond authorizations to H. 3546. These authorizations strengthen existing grant programs that can benefit some communities. These timely grants support the municipal pavement program for state-numbered routes, the Small Bridge program, Complete Streets, the municipal bus enhancement program, the mass transit access program, as well as assistance for the purchase of electric vehicles or building EV infrastructure.

These programs are important and the MMA supports the continued investment in electric vehicles and EV infrastructure to combat climate change and spur economic growth. Further, providing additional support to cities and towns to ensure roads and bridges are well-maintained is also prudent in order to safeguard these investments and lengthen the lifespan of all public and private vehicles that use our surface transportation system.

We appreciate the additional grant funding and expediency in moving H. 3546 forward swiftly, so that communities can make maximum use of these funds during the coming construction season, which begins in earnest in just a few weeks. We strongly encourage quick action on the bill while pursuing a permanent and adequate increase in the Chapter 90 program. An increase to at least $330 million per year for the Chapter 90 program would maximize efficiency, facilitate planning and ongoing implementation of roadway improvement plans, and return the program’s purchasing power to 2012 levels. Therefore, we are respectfully asking the Legislature and Governor to support a two-year authorization of the Chapter 90 program, for a total of $660 million. This would provide timely investments for cities and towns, promote local budgetary stability and legislative efficiency, and support municipalities in planning and implementing construction projects.

We appreciate this opportunity to submit written testimony, and we encourage the Committee to support a permanent increase in the Chapter 90 program with timely passage of this authorization. If you have any questions or desire further information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Adrienne Núñez at at any time.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful attention to this important legislation and for your dedication and support for the cities and towns of Massachusetts.


Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO

    1. The Federal Highway Administration’s National Highway Construction Cost Index (NHCCI), which measures the cost of road and highway construction projects, grew by 65.7% from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2023, rising from 1.541 to 2.553 over the past 11 years. Please use this link to access the USDOT’s NHCCI dashboard.