The Honorable Michael O. Moore, Chair
Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets
State House, Boston

Dear Senator Moore and Members of the Committee,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to offer our strong support for passage of a multi-year, $300 million Chapter 90 bond authorization. Cities and towns desperately need an increase in funds in order to maintain 30,000 miles of local roads and bridges in a state of good repair. The Chapter 90 program enables communities to improve our vital infrastructure, which leads to improved quality of life, ensures public safety and stimulates economic development.

As the customary deadline of April 1 for the enactment of a new Chapter 90 authorization has long passed, we respectfully and urgently request that the members of your Committee approve a Chapter 90 bond bill as soon as possible so that the measure can be signed into law and our cities and towns can begin the spring construction season. A timely authorization is essential, because when cities and towns are forced to bid, award and start work on projects in a significantly shortened construction season, bid responses tend to be more expensive, making repair work much costlier for local taxpayers. We are at that point, thus time is of the essence.

The MMA is respectfully asking that the authorization amount in H. 69, An Act financing improvements to municipal roads and bridges, be increased from a one-year, $200 million bond to a multi-year, $300-million-per-year bond authorization. A detailed analysis by the MMA in 2018 documented that cities and towns need $685 million annually to maintain 30,000 miles of local roads in a state of good repair. Currently, municipalities spend far less because of inadequate resources and because, for most cities and towns, Chapter 90 is the main or sole source of funds for local road construction and repair. A $300 million authorization, with an inflation-based adjustment, would enable cities and towns to begin to properly fund local road improvement plans, including pursuing a state of good repair that is a best practice standard for maintaining capital assets.

A multi-year bill is important, as this would significantly improve the ability to plan at the local level, by adding predictability and certainty regarding the amount and the timing of authorizations and reimbursements. When Chapter 90 timing and funding levels differ from year to year, it is difficult for communities to plan multi-year projects or to know how many years it will take to implement a comprehensive pavement management plan. Because a multi-year bill is best for our municipalities, we request that the authorization be indexed to account for inflation and protect against the loss of purchasing power.

The Chapter 90 program disburses state transportation tax revenues in a fair way in every corner of the Commonwealth, and lets taxpayers know that their local needs are recognized. Chapter 90 is the most effective and efficient way to ensure regional equity in and access to transportation funding. Further, cities and towns face such a substantial backlog of need that increasing the program to $300 million would immediately result in visible and necessary construction and repair projects on local roads throughout Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the annual authorization has remained at $200 million for the past several years, and cities and towns are falling behind in maintaining their roads.

Further, investing more in Chapter 90 funding to improve the quality of local roads will actually save taxpayers millions of dollars a year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, once a local road is in a state of good repair, every dollar invested to keep it properly maintained will save $6 to $10 in avoided repair costs that become necessary to rebuild the road when it fails due to a lack of maintenance. This is a powerful argument in favor of increasing Chapter 90 funding to the $300 million level, because a lower level of investment in the short term will certainly cost taxpayers much more in the long term.

We respectfully request that the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets advance this vital legislation as soon as possible, and ask that both the House and Senate act swiftly to pass a multi-year, $300 million Chapter 90 bill, so that cities and towns can improve and maintain our existing infrastructure, and build a stronger economy in every corner of Massachusetts. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your staff contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Ariela Lovett at (617) 426-7272 at any time.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO

cc: The Honorable Karen E. Spilka, Senate President
The Honorable Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair, Senate Committee on Ways & Means

Written by Meredith Gabrilska