The Senate on July 16 passed a $17 billion five-year bond bill to fund a wide range of transportation-related projects, though the bill does not establish future funding levels for the Chapter 90 road and bridge program.

Because the Legislature had already passed a standalone fiscal 2021 authorization for Chapter 90, the Senate opted not to take up Chapter 90 again in its comprehensive transportation investment bill (S. 2813).

The MMA, with the support of Sen. Adam Hinds, filed an amendment to the Senate bill that would have funded Chapter 90 for five years at $300 million per year, indexed to inflation, but the amendment was withdrawn before the Senate debated and voted on its bond bill.

The fiscal 2021 Chapter 90 authorization was signed by the governor on July 2.

The Senate bond bill includes funding for several municipal transportation grant programs, including $20 million for the Complete Streets program, $70 million for the Municipal Small Bridge program, $50 million for a new Local Bottleneck Reduction program, and $100 million for a new Municipal Pavement Partnership program.

The bottleneck program would fund changes to address “operationally influenced” impediments to traffic flow, which cause safety issues and excessive idling that boosts greenhouse gas emissions. Changes would include redesign, re-striping, lane and shoulder width adjustments, addition of auxiliary, collector and distributor lanes, signal improvements, ramp adjustments, signage and other infrastructure improvements.

The competitive pavement grant program would be for the construction, reconstruction, resurfacing, repair and improvement of pavement and surface conditions on municipal roadways. Expenditures may include the costs of engineering, design, permitting, climate change adaptation and resilience, and other services essential to the projects.

The MMA has long advocated for an increase in Chapter 90 funding, which represents the only source of unrestricted and non-competitive state funding for local road maintenance. Chapter 90 has been level-funded at $200 million since 2012, with a few one-time exceptions.

The House passed a long-term transportation bond bill in early March, before the COVID-19 emergency hit and severely impacted the economy and state revenues.

Legislative leaders have indicated a commitment to finalize a transportation bond bill before the scheduled end of the 2019-2020 session on July 31.

Without a long-term commitment to funding Chapter 90 in the transportation bond bill, cities and towns will have to wait until the governor files a Chapter 90 bill for fiscal 2022 next winter.

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