Local road $$$ bill detoured into conference committee

THINKSTOCK

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 5, 2017…..Unable to resolve their differences informally, the House and Senate on Wednesday formed a six-member conference committee charged with coming up with legislation to fund local road and bridge repairs.

Sen. Thomas McGee of Lynn and Rep. William Straus of Mattapoisett will chair the conference committee and will be joined by Sens. John Keenan and Don Humason and Reps. Brian Dempsey and Steve Howitt.

Both branches agree on a $200 million funding level for the Chapter 90 program for this year, but the Senate bill approves $200 million for next fiscal year as well. The House bill allots $70 million for Registry of Motor Vehicles information technology upgrades while the Senate bill authorizes $60 million. And the House bill is silent on a Senate measure authorizing $30 million for regional transit authority investments, including funds to assists transportation efforts for the elderly and disabled.

Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli said that a delay of even two or three weeks could jeopardize road projects in towns hoping to take advantage of the short construction season.

“At this late stage, yeah. I think the Senate is wrong,” Pignatelli said. “I fully support the multi-year stuff and those concepts so towns can bank on that money and not wait for us until April 1, but that’s a conversation the House and Senate need to have in January, not April.”

Keenan said the two-year authorization would make it easier for municipalities to plan ahead on road projects.

“I came from local government, and I know that having a two-year authorization knowing that the money would be there in the second year makes it easier to plan,” Keenan said.

[Matt Murphy and Andy Metzger contributed reporting]