The $400 million, two-year Chapter 90 bond bill filed by Gov. Maura Healey on Jan. 18 has been referred to the Joint Committee on Transportation.

The bill would authorize $200 million per year for the local road and bridge maintenance reimbursement program.

“I am seeking a two-year authorization to enable cities and towns sufficient time to put the funds to work given the planning and coordination required to get these critical projects completed,” Healey said in her filing letter, adding a request for “swift passage.”

For several years, the MMA has been advocating for increasing the annual Chapter 90 authorization to at least $300 million. In a Jan. 3 letter to the Healey-Driscoll administration, the MMA requested a multi-year bill with at least $330 million per year, to address recent dramatic increases in road construction costs.

Base Chapter 90 funding has been level-funded at $200 million since fiscal 2012. Adjusting for inflation, the program has lost 42.6% of its purchasing power over the past 11 years, according to an MMA analysis. The current Chapter 90 bill would not address the loss of purchasing power.

The MMA’s most recent statewide survey shows that cities and towns need $600 million per year in Chapter 90 funding to adequately maintain 30,000 miles of local roads and hundreds of bridges. The MMA just completed its latest biennial Chapter 90 survey and will soon release updated figures.

The MMA has also been advocating for the Legislature to act on Chapter 90 funding early in the legislative session, so that municipalities can access the funding early in the construction season.

The Chapter 90 reimbursement program was launched 50 years ago to help municipalities maintain the roads and bridges for which they are responsible. Apportionments are calculated based on a formula that accounts for local road miles, employment, and population. Some advocates have taken issue with the formula, saying it doesn’t adequately meet the needs of rural communities with lower employment and population numbers.

Multiple bills have been filed in the House and Senate this year that would evaluate or modify the Chapter 90 funding formula.

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