Road funding bill strengthened, $30 million added for regional transit

Bill includes $400M for municipal road repairs

BOSTON (State House News Service) – House and Senate leaders are deciding Wednesday whether they can find common ground on a consensus local road and bridge funding bill, or if they’ll need to postpone further action while they further debate policy issues.

The Senate on Wednesday morning approved a $490 million, two-year local road repair funding bill before recessing to await action from the House, which is not expected to rev up its session until 3 p.m.

In addition to $400 million for municipal road repairs over two years, the bill (S 2047) also authorizes $30 million in bonds to invest in regional transit authorities and transportation options for the elderly and disabled, and green-lights $60 million for information technology upgrades at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The House-approved bill (H 2783) calls for $200 million to fund the Chapter 90 program for one year and $70 million for the RMV upgrades.

Before recessing, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg told colleagues they were waiting to see how their proposal is received in the House.

“We’ll see how the rest of the day goes,” Rosenberg said.

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City and town officials for years have been asking the Legislature to approve a multi-year financing bill for road work so that communities can better plan projects into the future rather than wait to see how much money they will receive each spring.

Sen. Karen Spilka of Ashland said the core information technology system at the Registry of Motor Vehicles has been in place since 1986.

“As much as the RMV has made progress, there still are issues and the core IT processes have been a problem so this is a total overhaul,” Spilka said.

Transportation Committee co-chairman Sen. Thomas McGee of Lynn said cities and towns have made the argument that more than $700 million is needed to bring local roads and bridges into a state of good repair in Massachusetts.

“This is a small drop in the bucket to the real need,” McGee said. “If anybody’s driving around any of the towns and cities of the commonwealth they know how bad these road are and the lack of investment … ”

McGee, who is running for mayor of Lynn, praised the bill, but said “we have a major crisis in transportation in the commonwealth” punctuated by large state-of-good-repair backlogs at the MBTA and in the state highway network.