Local officials push for Ch. 90 funding increase

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The MMA and local officials across the state are continuing to push for a substantial increase in the vital Chapter 90 program, which helps cities and towns fund road and bridge repair and maintenance projects that are key to economic development and quality of life.
 
At the Nov. 14 meeting of the Local Government Advisory Commission, Greenfield Mayor William Martin asked the Baker administration to file a multi-year, $300 million per year Chapter 90 bond bill. He also asked that the governor file the bill early in January, in order to give it time to move through the legislative process and make funds available to cities and towns by April 1, in time for the construction season.
 
The MMA followed up with a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker on Dec. 12 asking him to file a multi-year, stand-alone $300 million Chapter 90 bond bill as soon as possible.
 
“These much-needed funds will support cities and towns in their efforts to maintain and bring 30,000 miles of local roads and bridges into a state of good repair,” wrote MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith.
 
As a long-standing policy, the MMA has advocated for an increase in Chapter 90 funding to $300 million annually. A statewide survey conducted by the MMA in 2014 found that cities and towns need $639 million annually to keep 30,000 miles of local roads in a state of good repair. Currently, communities spend far less due to inadequate resources.
 
Local officials argue that a multi-year Chapter 90 bill would allow communities to plan better at the local level by bringing predictability and certainty regarding funding authorizations and timing. Communities are able to design multi-year projects and implement pavement management plans more effectively when they know what their Chapter 90 authorizations will be in future years.
 
When cities and towns do not receive Chapter 90 funds on time, as has been the case in past years, communities are forced to bid, award and start work on projects in a significantly shortened construction season, when bid responses tend to be the most expensive.
 
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation reimburses cities and towns for costs incurred for eligible transportation projects through the Chapter 90 program. Chapter 90 funding is distributed to cities and towns through a formula that takes into account population, road miles and employment.