Cities and towns face $362M funding gap to maintain and repair local roads

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For Immediate Release
For further information, contact Geoffrey C. Beckwith at (617) 426-7272

MMA calls for $100M more in annual Chapter 90 funding for local roads

MMA: Investing in Chapter 90 strengthens the economy, saves taxpayers millions

The MMA today released a report documenting that cities and towns across the state face an annual shortfall of $362 million in the funding needed to maintain municipal roadways in a state of good repair, the industry standard for ensuring well-maintained roads in good condition.

The MMA and local officials from across Massachusetts immediately called for a $100 million per year increase in the state-backed program that funds local road repairs, hailing the investment as essential for the state’s economic future and necessary to save taxpayers millions of dollars in more costly projects when roads fail.

Data collected by the MMA from cities and towns across the state reveal that communities in Massachusetts would need to spend $562 million every year to rebuild and maintain local roads in a state of good repair, but communities spend far less because of inadequate resources. The result can be seen in potholes and crumbling roads across the state.

Chapter 90, the state program to reimburse cities and towns for the cost of maintaining local roads, provides just $200 million per year, or just 36 percent of the actual need, resulting in a massive local funding gap of $362 million a year, according to the municipal association.

“Cities and towns are responsible for 30,000 miles of roads in Massachusetts, and Chapter 90 funding must be increased to prevent these roads from deteriorating and crumbling,” said MMA Executive Director Geoffrey C. Beckwith. “Economists and transportation experts all agree – cities and towns must have enough funds to maintain and rebuild local roads so that we can build a stronger economy, create jobs, ensure safe roadways, and enhance our quality of life.”

Waltham City Councillor Robert G. Logan, the president of the MMA, said, “Funding for local roads across the state is dangerously low, and now is the time to invest. The more we delay, the more this will cost taxpayers in the long run.”

Councillor Logan said that the MMA and local officials across the state are calling for a $100 million increase in annual Chapter 90 funding, asking state leaders to commit to $300 million per year over the next five years to help close the gap and get local roadways in Massachusetts much closer to the “good repair” standard.

Key local leaders from across Massachusetts joined the MMA at the State House to release the report, calling for an increase in Chapter 90 funding as the most reliable, appropriate and effective way to close the local transportation funding gap and invest in improved roadways in all communities across the state. The local leaders calling for action were:

• Danvers Assistant Town Manager Diane Norris, chair of the MMA’s Transportation Policy Committee, who explained the MMA’s recommendation of $300 million per year for Chapter 90 and a five-year bond bill

• Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, the former chair of the House Transportation Committee, who highlighted the importance of Chapter 90 and the economic benefits statewide

• Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, who described how her city is forced to use Community Development Block Grant funds to offset part of the Chapter 90 gap, taking valuable money away from other economic development projects

• Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who outlined the importance of Chapter 90 as part of a comprehensive transportation strategy to build strong communities

• Sheffield Selectman Rene Wood, who discussed the vital importance of Chapter 90 to smaller communities in every corner of Massachusetts

• Massachusetts Highway Association President Mike Valenti, who outlined the need for timely release of Chapter 90 funds and pointed out how delays cost money

• Spencer Public Works Commissioner Steven Tyler, who outlined the importance of maintaining roads at a good state of repair and described his town’s pavement management program.

The state created the Chapter 90 program in 1973 to share a portion of gas tax revenue with communities to ensure adequate resources for local road construction needs. Almost 40 years later, however, funding for the Chapter 90 program is far short of the actual need because construction costs have escalated sharply, in great part due to significant increases in the cost of fossil fuels, which drives up the price of construction materials such as asphalt and steel.

The MMA report states that 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 $1 invested to keep it properly maintained will save $6 to $10 in avoided repair costs that would be needed to rebuild the road when it fails.

Under Proposition 2½, cities and towns are unable to increase the amount of local funds used to supplement Chapter 90 unless they cut other important services such as public safety or education, or pass a tax override, increasing local reliance on the already overburdened property tax.

The MMA and local officials across the state are also members of the broad coalition of stakeholders calling for a comprehensive state and local transportation finance plan, recognizing that the entire Commonwealth will benefit greatly from increased revenues to invest in local and state roadways and highways as well as regional transit systems.

The MMA is the statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan association that provides advocacy, training, education, research, publications and other services to all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. The MMA is the only statewide organization that brings local officials together to establish unified policies to advance and meet the needs of local government, advocates for those policies, and works to build strong communities across the state. The MMA serves as the voice of cities and towns on Beacon Hill and works with the National League of Cities to advance local government interests on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Download comprehensive MMA report that identifies funding needs for local roads and bridges (175K PDF)