A bond terms bill signed by Gov. Maura Healey on Sept. 12 concludes the legislative process for the Chapter 90 local road and bridge program for fiscal 2024 and will enable the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to process reimbursements for approved projects.

The $200 million for Chapter 90 included in a transportation bond bill signed on Aug. 4 is just one source of formula road funding available to cities and towns in fiscal 2024, however.

The transportation bond bill authorized another $25 million for a new supplemental municipal road formula program to support rural communities. And the state budget signed by the governor on Aug. 9 includes $100 million for local road and bridge maintenance funded by revenue from the voter-approved surtax on annual incomes over $1 million, which, by law, must be spent on transportation and education programs.

Reimbursements for approved Chapter 90 expenses are expected to be available soon. MassDOT district representatives typically notify their municipal contacts when Chapter 90 reimbursements are able to be processed.

The formula for the additional $25 million authorized in the bond bill will be calculated based on road miles, population, and whether a municipality is considered rural (population below 10,000 and population density below 500 people per square mile). The bond terms for this new authorization were set along with the terms for Chapter 90, but it may take several months for this funding to be available to communities. MassDOT must create a new formula, submit it to the Joint Committee on Transportation, and await guidance. The Transportation Committee may decide to hold a public hearing on the proposed formula.

The $100 million allocated in the state budget will be for a Municipal Partnership Program to support municipal road and bridge projects. At least half will be distributed based on road miles, with the remainder distributed based on the Chapter 90 formula. MassDOT has until next March 1 to provide preliminary notice to communities about their apportionment of this funding (similar to the typical Chapter 90 notifications).

The Municipal Partnership Program is statutorily intended to mirror the Chapter 90 program in terms of process and restrictions. The funding will be available as reimbursements and will likely require similar administrative processing of projects.

In addition to the $325 million made available for municipal formula funds, bond authorizations for six additional grant programs were included in the transportation bond bill. Each program was authorized an additional $25 million. Authorizations included the following multi-year accounts:
Municipal Pavement Program
Municipal Small Bridge Program
Complete Streets Funding Program
• Municipal grants for infrastructure focused on the enhancement of mass transit by bus
• Funding for the study, design, construction or improvements that increase access to mass transit and commuter rail stations
• Grants to municipalities and regional transit authorities to support fleet electrification

MassDOT is in the process of creating a municipal grants portal that would allow a one-stop application to all MassDOT grant programs. The agency anticipates launching the portal next April. Details to come.

Another Chapter 90 bill is likely to be filed in the early months of 2024 to fund fiscal 2025 and possibly additional years. The MMA has long advocated for a two-year Chapter 90 bond authorization, with the goal of better aligning funding availability to the construction season while reducing administrative burdens and wait times.

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