Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable William Straus, House Chair
The Honorable Brendan Crighton, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Transportation
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Straus, Chair Crighton, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, we appreciate the opportunity to provide a municipal perspective on H. 52, An Act financing improvements to municipal roads and bridges. We are grateful for Governor Healey’s prompt filing of this two-year bond authorization bill, the Legislature’s swift referral to committee, and your prioritization of this critical and pertinent legislation.
In this 50th anniversary year of the Chapter 90 program, and in recognition of its importance in supporting cities and towns, we are respectfully urging the Joint Committee on Transportation to recommend a critically needed increase to the authorization to at least $330 million per year, indexed to grow with inflation, for each of the two years proposed by Governor Healey.
Massachusetts roadways are a critical component of our statewide transportation network, necessary for the safe and efficient transport of goods and people. Our roads, bridges, sidewalks, and paths are life-sustaining — connecting residents and guests to family, education, jobs, adventure and opportunity. Our roadways are fundamental infrastructure to ensure resilience and stability in our economy and communities. The Chapter 90 program is an 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 the 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. Though we greatly appreciate the proposed two-year authorization, H. 52 would keep Chapter 90 at $200 million annually. 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.
For 11 years, the Chapter 90 program has been mostly level-funded at $200 million. We are deeply grateful to the Legislature for the various one-time infusions and supplemental programs to support municipal road infrastructure, including the $100 million in Winter Recovery Assistance Program funding that you enacted last year, which aided communities in addressing immediate safety needs on their roadways. These one-time supplemental investments have been very helpful, yet the optimal solution is a permanent increase in the Chapter 90 program itself, as this would maximize efficiency and facilitate planning and ongoing implementation of roadway improvement plans.
During the 11 years that Chapter 90 has generally remained level at $200 million, 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 by 65.7%, a loss of $131.4 million in purchasing power since fiscal 2012. 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.
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. The MMA supports the expansive federal and state investments in electric vehicles and EV infrastructure to combat climate change and spur economic growth. Providing additional support to cities and towns to ensure roads and bridges are well-maintained is also a prudent action to safeguard these investments and lengthen the lifespan of all public and private vehicles that use our surface transportation system.
We know public safety is a top priority for your committee and for your colleagues in the Legislature. According to the 2023 Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), deaths and serious injuries on the roadways are at a 14-year high. Among several recommendations to promote safety for all road users, the SHSP promotes expanding resources to municipalities, and we believe that increasing Chapter 90 is the most efficient and effective way to enhance municipal roadway safety, as these funds are used in real time to address urgently needed projects.
Finally, we encourage you to support Governor Healey’s proposal to enact a two-year authorization. A majority (58%) of respondents to the MMA’s biennial survey indicated that they are either currently saving multi-year Chapter 90 allotments for larger projects or have done so in the past five years. A two-year bond authorization at a total of $660 million would provide for budgetary stability, legislative efficiency, and support municipalities in planning and implementing construction projects.
We appreciate this opportunity to submit 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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