Massachusetts bridge repair plan advances

| 7/25/2008

The Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved a bill that would allot nearly $3 billion to speed up repairs of the most neglected bridges in the state.

At the encouragement of Gov. Deval Patrick, the repair plan would use $2.98 billion to fix “structurally deficient” bridges during the next eight years. State figures show there now are 543 structurally deficient bridges. That number grows each year, The Boston Globe reported.

The state’s Highway Department and municipalities own nearly 90 percent of bridges in the state. Other state agencies own the rest.

Supporters say the repair plan will save $1.5 billion in construction costs by getting work done sooner. They cite escalating costs for construction. Others say the plan is a necessity to improve public safety. It also would create thousands of construction jobs, they say.

The work would be financed with $1.1 billion in expected future federal transportation funds and $1.9 billion in state fuel tax revenue.

Patrick said in a written statement that his plan would reduce by about 15 percent the number of “structurally deficient” spans during the next eight years. Without the plan, he said the number of such bridges would increase by 30 percent during that time.

The bill – H4972 – has moved back to the House for approval of changes.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Massachusetts in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor