A new report released today by Transportation for Massachusetts and co-authored by CLF Staff Attorney Rafael Mares evaluates the implementation of the Transportation Finance Act of 2013 since its passage last July. The report is the first in a series of planned progress reports aimed at ensuring the new law’s success at addressing the most burning needs of the state’s ailing transportation system.
Last July, the Massachusetts legislature passed the historic funding package, which is projected to raise an estimated $600 million annually for the next five years. While this much-needed infusion of funds is a solid step in the right direction, it falls far short of addressing the full spectrum of funding needs – estimated at $1 billion per year over the next 20 years – across Massachusetts’ roads, rails, and public transit systems.
The progress report released today points to both positive achievements of the Act so far as well as future threats to its success. Among the pluses are needed funds for the operation of regional transit authorities (RTAs) and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), as well as new capital projects including the purchase of new Red and Orange Line cars for the MBTA, the extension of the Green Line, reconstruction of the I-91 Viaduct in Springfield, and more than 75 additional road and bridge projects.
Among the areas of concern is the lack of adequate funding for the package – many of the projects originally earmarked in the Act do not have enough, or any, funding to move forward. For example, there is insufficient funding available for the timely replacement of RTA buses. Likewise, replacement of Green Line cars was slated for more than $700 million in funding last year, but barely $2.5 million has been reserved for the project.
In its first six months, the report concludes, the legislature and Patrick administration have met the overall expectations of the law, and the new revenues raised are close to what was projected. But, the Commonwealth will have to maintain this pace and catch up on a few deadlines imposed by the Act if this progress is to stay on track. As CLF and fellow coalition members at Transportation for Massachusetts continue to monitor the Act’s implementation we hope that these bi-annual progress reports will help transportation advocates and policy makers identify the unmet needs of the transportation system and take the actions needed to address them.