MMA letter to MassDOT Secretary Pollack supports capital plan but calls for Ch. 90 increase

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The Hon. Stephanie Pollack
Secretary & Chief Executive Officer Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4160
Boston, MA 02116
 
Dear Secretary Pollack,
 
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to offer comments on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s 2019- 2023 Capital Investment Plan (CIP). We want to thank you for having a comprehensive public meeting process that has allowed many local officials to provide feedback on the CIP and we appreciate the opportunity for members of the MMA’s Public Works, Transportation and Public Utilities Policy Committee to meet with MassDOT officials at a recent meeting to discuss capital planning and the importance of transportation funding.
 
As you know, MassDOT’s Capital Investment Plan includes system reliability as a key priority for the agency. In fact, about 50 percent of the $17.8 billion capital plan for the next five years will go towards making the core transportation system more reliable. The MMA agrees that reliability and maintaining existing assets is extremely important to our Commonwealth’s transportation system. Without reliability, public safety, economic development, and quality of life in Massachusetts is threatened.
 
Keeping in mind the core tenant of system reliability, the MMA respectfully requests the inclusion of $300 million annually in Chapter 90 funding for local roads and bridges in MassDOT’s 2019- 2023 Capital Investment Plan. A $300 million authorization would 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. According to a 2014 analysis conducted by the MMA, cities and towns across the Commonwealth need to spend at least $639 million annually to maintain and bring 30,000 miles of local roads into a state of good repair. Chapter 90 is the main or sole source of funds for road construction and repair for most cities and towns. Municipalities are currently spending far less than the required amount due to inadequate resources. Funding the Chapter 90 program at $300 million annually, with an inflation-based adjustment, will close a portion of this huge gap. When communities receive the same amount in Chapter 90 funds from year to year, the loss of purchasing power due to inflation means that communities are able to do fewer roadwork projects with the same amount of money.
 
We also note that the Chapter 90 program is the most effective and efficient way to ensure regional equity and access to state transportation tax revenues. 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. Further, cities and towns face such a backlog of need
 
that the increase will immediately result in visible and necessary construction and repair projects on local roads across Massachusetts.
 
In addition to voicing our strong support for increasing Chapter 90 funds to $300 million annually, the MMA would like to thank you for including the municipal small bridge program in the CIP. The small bridge program provides much-needed funding for the design, construction, preservation, reconstruction and repair of non-federally aided bridges. There are approximately 1,300 municipal small bridges across the state with span lengths between 10 and 20 feet that cities and towns are responsible for maintaining and replacing.
 
The MMA also supports the continuation of the Complete Streets program, which aims to provide safe and accessible options for all modes of travel, including walking, biking, motorized vehicles and transit. Currently, more than 200 communities are registered through the program and 159 have approved Complete Streets policies.
 
It is clear that MassDOT has given much thought to developing a comprehensive five-year Capital Investment Plan. The plan includes funding for many local and regional projects that are important to cities and towns in the Commonwealth. MMA supports the Administration’s careful consideration to prioritization and transparency, and we appreciate the Administration’s approach to this plan, which uses performance-based capital planning and the state of good repair standard.
 
Again, we respectfully request that the Baker-Polito Administration include vital funding of $300 million annually for Chapter 90 in the 2019-2023 MassDOT Capital Investment Plan – this is essential to get closer to achieving state-of-good-repair goals for our 30,000 miles of local roads – so that cities and towns can improve and maintain our existing infrastructure, and build a stronger economy in every corner of Massachusetts.
 
Thank you very much.
 
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO