On March 9, the MMA and local officials testified before the Joint Committee on Transportation at a preliminary hearing on a $200 million Chapter 90 bond bill for fiscal 2022.

The MMA, along with Franklin Public Works Director Brutus Cantoreggi and Gloucester Public Works Director Michael Hale, continued to advocate for additional funding to help address local needs and boost economic recovery. With a few small exceptions, annual Chapter 90 funding has been level-funded at $200 million since 2012, and has lost one-third of its purchasing power over that time.

The MMA panel said the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges for municipal public works departments.

“We’re all behind in our road maintenance work,” Hale said, citing the need to reduce staffing by half as a safety precaution and due to illnesses, as well as delays to the start of the construction season last year because of the onset of the pandemic.

Cantoreggi said with most people staying closer to home due to the pandemic, road-use patterns shifted to put more wear and tear on local roads.

In recent years, the state has added several targeted, competitive road funding opportunities for municipalities, such as the Complete Streets and Small Bridges grant programs. But the MMA argued that “there is no substitute for the core Chapter 90 program,” which is “the only non-competitive program that maintains local control over how to spend the dollars on local road projects” and the only one that benefits all 351 cities and towns.

The MMA emphasized the importance of finalizing the bill (H. 57) as quickly as possible so that cities and towns can access their Chapter 90 allotment and begin the spring construction season on time.

The MMA also submitted written testimony.

Once the Transportation Committee reports out the bill, its next step is expected to be the House Bonding Committee.

The MMA filed a standalone Chapter 90 bill, sponsored by Sen. Adam Hinds, that would fund the Chapter 90 program at $300 million per year for two years. The bill (SD. 2456) has not yet been assigned a bill number or hearing date.

Written by