MMA letter to Joint Transportation Committee calls for multi-year Ch. 90 bill at $300M per year

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The Honorable William Straus, House Chair
The Honorable Joseph Boncore, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Transportation
State House, Boston
 
Dear Chairman Straus, Chairman Boncore, and Members of the Committee,
 
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the MMA is writing to offer our strong support for 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 programs enables communities to improve our vital infrastructure, which leads to improved quality of life, ensures public safety and stimulates economic development. We respectfully and urgently ask you and the members of your committee to approve a multi-year $300 million Chapter 90 bond bill as soon as possible, so that the measure can be signed into law by the April 1 deadline, and cities and towns can begin the construction season on time.
 
The MMA is asking that the Chapter 90 bond authorization in the bill before the committee today, H. 4237, An Act Financing Improvements to Municipal Roads and Bridges, be increased from a one-year $200 million amount to a multi-year $300 million-a-year bond authorization. A detailed analysis by the MMA in 2014 documented that cities and towns across the state need to spend at least $639 million every year to maintain and bring 30,000 miles of local roads into a state of good repair. Because construction inflation has risen faster than the CPI, we estimate that the cost is now very close to $700 million a year. 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, will 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. When Chapter 90 funding levels differ from year to year, it is difficult for communities to plan multi-year projects or know how many years it will take to implement a comprehensive pavement management plan. Because a multi-year bill is best, we request that the authorization be indexed to account for inflation and protect against the loss of purchasing power.
 
The Chapter 90 program shares transportation 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 and regional access to state transportation tax revenues.
 
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.
 
In order to ensure that cities and towns can begin the construction season on time, we ask that the committee advance this legislation as soon as possible. We believe it is important for the Legislature to enact a new Chapter 90 authorization before April 1. Otherwise, cities and towns would be forced to bid, award and start work on projects in a significantly shortened construction season, which drives up the cost to taxpayers because the bid responses are more expensive (with communities all competing for contractors in a shorter construction window, bid prices go up due to the limited supply of companies and the higher concentration of demand).
 
We thank you for your partnership on this issue, and look forward to continuing to discuss local transportation funding needs with your committee. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your staff contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Victoria Sclafani at (617) 426-7272, ext. 161 at any time.
 
Sincerely,
 
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO