Tool to Crack Massachusetts’s Transportation Budget Nut

Rafael Mares


On April 13, the Massachusetts Senate voted in favor of a $600 million per year transportation funding plan. But can that plan fund all of the challenges facing the Bay State’s transportation system? It’s a question many are asking, and few have the tools to answer.

That’s why we built the Transportation Budget Calculator. Follow this link to see how short this funding falls in the face of the state’s overwhelming transportation needs.

The plan that the Senate approved directs an average of $600 million per year to transportation. While the Senate bill is similar to the proposal previously approved by the House, it added roughly $100 million per year on average in revenue. This additional amount does not require raising any new taxes. Rather, the Senate bill redirects 2.5 cents per gallon from the gas tax that is currently committed to underground storage tank removal to the transportation sector. The Senate bill also calls for new revenues from the leasing of MBTA and MassDOT land to utilities.

A conference committee has formed to try and merge the House and Senate bills. There has been a lot of interest in understanding how much of its transportation challenges the Commonwealth would be able to tackle should legislation emerge that is consistent with the revenue that the Senate bill raises.

The Senate bill raises sufficient revenue to correct some of the Commonwealth’s most egregious financial practices born out of the necessity to fill budget holes created by chronic underfunding. This includes ending the terrible practice of paying for costs associated with the operation of our transportation system with bonds.

The bill also includes about $100 million per year on average for capital projects. This number could be significantly lower depending on two factors: first, whether the bill’s growth projections for payroll and benefits come to pass or not; and second, whether it is realistic for the MBTA to be able to meet the bill’s underlying projections about how much money the agency can raise on its own. Regardless, this amount, unfortunately, cannot resolve all of the infrastructure challenges of our transportation system.

To get a sense of the challenge facing the committee, try our new Transportation Budget Calculator. Using the revenue provided by the Senate bill, the calculator allows you to pick state of good repair and expansion projects off of a project list and will inform you if you can afford the projects you have selected or not.

It’s may not be as exciting as your favorite video game, but you can still enjoy the ride (if you can afford to build the road or the track)!

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