When Comparing Transportation Finance Plans, Know Your Fruit

Rafael Mares | @RafaelMares2

At a time when our legislators are facing critical decisions on transportation financing, their ability to properly assess the plans on the table is being hampered by confusion about the different plans’ price tags and where the money is going to come from.

Factions are forming around inaccurate characterizations of the different transportation plans, so before the Senate begins its debate tomorrow and key decisions get made, we thought it would be helpful to lay it out apples to apples.

Following is a simple way to keep the numbers organized. For each plan, we added up the amount to be spent on transportation over the next five years and divided it by five. This gives annualized numbers that are comparable. Here are the average amounts per year for the first five years of the three plans:

There are still significant differences on how these amounts would be raised and the assumptions about growth underlying them. Still, to the extent that the public, the press and the legislature chooses to focus on the size of the plans as a matter of debate, it’s important to be sure we’ve at least got that part straight.

Our bottom line? Bigger is better if we want a working transportation system for all of Massachusetts. Underfunding transportation again is the worst possible outcome. It will still cost taxpayers money; they just won’t have anything to show for it. If you are one of the majority of Massachusetts voters who believe a working transportation system is worth paying for, please call your state senator today.

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