MMA letter to transportation secretary urging inclusion of $300M annually for Chapter 90

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Ms. 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 2017-2021 Capital Investment Plan. The MMA is asking for an increase in these vital funds that help cities and towns to maintain local roads, which raises quality of life for residents, maintains public safety and expands economic development in our communities.

The MMA would again like to express strong appreciation to the Baker-Polito Administration for the release of $300 million in Chapter 90 funds for the fiscal year 2016 (April to November 2015) construction season. Last year’s $300 million authorization enabled 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. This year, the Administration showed its commitment to cities and towns by filing a $200 million Chapter 90 bond bill plus an authorization for a new municipal bridge program. In addition to requesting an increase in Chapter 90 funds in the Capital Investment Plan, the MMA would like to begin a dialogue with you, Governor Baker, and the Administration regarding the possibility of releasing the remaining $100 million in bond funds that were withheld by the previous administration. This would provide a total of $300 million in much-needed Chapter 90 funds to cities and towns during the fiscal 2017 (April to November 2016) construction season.

The MMA would like to thank you and the Baker Administration for developing a thoughtful and 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.

The draft 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. MMA supports $300 million annually in Chapter 90 funds and would like to see this need reflected 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 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.

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 keeping Chapter 90 funding at the $300 million level, because dropping down to 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 Capital Investment Plan that provide opportunities for cities and towns – the municipal small bridge program and the complete streets program. The small bridge program would provide 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 Complete Streets program encourages cities and towns to redesign and modernize streets to accommodate all types of users. So far, more than 200 communities have participated in complete streets training to learn more about the initiative.

Again, we respectfully request that the Baker-Polito Administration include vital funding of $300 million annually for Chapter 90 in the 2017-2021 MassDOT 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. Further, we respectfully request that the remaining $100 million Chapter 90 authorization from previous years be released during this construction season to bring this year’s amount up to a total of $300 million.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith 
MMA Executive Director & CEO

cc: His Excellency Charles D. Baker, Governor of the Commonwealth
The Honorable Karyn Polito, Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth