MMA letter to Transportation Secretary calls for multi-year commitment to higher Ch. 90 funding level

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Stephanie Pollack
Secretary & Chief Executive Officer
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA
Dear Secretary Pollack,
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to offer our strong support for the inclusion of $300 million annually in Chapter 90 funding for local roads and bridges in MassDOT’s 2018-2022 Capital Investment Plan. An increase in these vital funds that help cities and towns to maintain local roads will raise the quality of life for residents, maintain public safety and expand economic development in our communities.
The MMA appreciates the opportunity to comment as MassDOT is in the process of updating its five-year Capital Investment Plan. This year’s Capital Investment Plan will revise fiscal years 2017- 2021 and will make programming investments for fiscal 2022. Last year, MassDOT employed a new methodology to develop a thoughtful and comprehensive five-year Capital Investment Plan. We applaud the Administration’s approach, which focuses on transparency and prioritization, and uses performance-based capital planning and the state of good repair standard. The plan includes funding for many local and regional projects that are important to cities and towns in the Commonwealth.
The capital plan contains a strong focus on system reliability as a key priority, and maintaining our local roads is an essential part of this principle. The MMA respectfully and firmly urges you to include at least $300 million annually for Chapter 90 in the Capital Investment Plan. 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 this necessary 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 gap.
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.
MassDOT is taking the correct approach in focusing on reliability and maintenance, because investing in the proper upkeep of our roads and transit systems 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 would certainly cost taxpayers much more in the long term.
In addition to urging you to increase funding for Chapter 90, the MMA would like to thank you for the inclusion of two important programs in the 2017-2021 Capital Investment Plan: the municipal small bridge program and the complete streets program. These programs will provide opportunities for cities and towns across the Commonwealth. The small bridge program will provide funding for the design, construction, preservation, reconstruction and repair of non-federally aided bridges across the state with span lengths between 10 and 20 feet that cities and towns are responsible for maintaining and replacing. The Complete Streets program encourages cities and towns to redesign and modernize streets to accommodate all types of users. Continued investment in these important programs will allow for more communities to participate and receive grant funds to improve their infrastructure.
The MMA appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the MassDOT Capital Investment Plan. We respectfully request that the Baker-Polito Administration include vital funding of $300 million annually for Chapter 90 in the 2018-2022 Capital Investment Plan, 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
MMA Executive Director & CEO