MMA Looks to Get in the Que

The Massachusetts Municipal Association yesterday called for an increase in Chapter 90 funding for localities to bridge the gap between what is spent today, and what needs to be spent to bring local roads and bridges to a “state of good repair”. The so called “state of good repair” is the standard used to quantify how much would need to be spent to keep our locally maintained roads and bridges in workable condition. It is a phrase that we have seen used by the State Transportation Finance Commission with regards to the MBTA and Massachusetts roads and bridges.

How much responsibility do localities have for Massachusetts roads? Actually localities have the primary responsibility. From the MMA report.

Cities and towns are responsible for repairing and maintaining 30,000 miles of roadways, almost 90% of the total in Massachusetts. In 1973, recognizing the vital role that communities have in ensuring an effective and safe statewide roadway system, the state created the Chapter 90 program, with the intent to share a portion of gas tax revenues with communities to ensure adequate resources for local road construction needs. But almost 40 years later, funding for the Chapter 90 program is far short of the actual need, as construction costs have escalated sharply, in great part due to significant increases in the cost of fossil fuels, which drives up the price of construction materials such as asphalt and steel.

Chapter 90 is the program that delivers state assistance to localities for this work. From the report:

Chapter 90, the state’s bond-funded program to reimburse cities and towns for the cost of maintaining local roads provides just $200 million a year, or only 36% of the actual need, resulting in a massive local funding gap of $362 million a year. While some communities are able to close a small portion of their road construction funding gap with local property tax dollars, this does not come close to meeting the actual need, which explains why local roads are crumbling across the state. The MMA and local officials throughout Massachusetts have called
for a $100 million increase in annual Chapter 90 funding, with a 5-year commitment of $300 million a year for Chapter 90, or a total $1.5 billion over 5 years, to help close the gap and get local roadways in Massachusetts much closer to the good repair standard.

The MMA is correct on the state of good repair issue, and the need to increase infrastructure aid to localities. The timing of this release, from a political perspective, is designed to ensure that if new revenues are are the table to solve the State’s transportation issues localities are included in the mix. There is a real need for transportation dollars, and localities want to make sure that (new)revenues are distributed fairly. A fair presentation, and one that will increase pressure on the Legislature to look at new revenues in the next budget cycle. The MMA Report is here.

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