An environmental advocacy group has called for
adding tolls to some existing interstates in the Boston area to pay for
transportation work, but a state official has said that the plan is dead on
Philip Warburg, president of the Conservation Law
Foundation, called for the new tolls on Interstate 93 and the Southeast Expressway as a way
to pay for transit improvements. He spoke during a press conference Jan. 12.
“If additional funds are needed, the Commonwealth
should look to the car commuters who benefit most directly from the billions
spent on the Big Dig and other highway projects,” Warburg said. “Those who ride the T
pay for their mobility. Why should car commuters not be called upon to do the
“Commuters who come into the city via the Pike, the
Tobin Bridge, or the airport tunnels pay a fee for the roadways they use. Why
should commuters traveling on I-93 and the Southeast Expressway be exempt?
Highway tolls could help pay for the transit commitments.”
However, the “transit commitments” listed by Warburg’s group include mainly commuter rail
projects, such as the Green Line
extension to Medford, connecting the Red and Blue lines at Charles/MGH and
restoration of rail along the Arborway in Jamaica Plain.
And that, according to one state official, is why the plan
will not work.
Jon Carlisle – a spokesman for the
state’s transportation secretary, Daniel A. Grabauskas, – told The Boston Globe that under current
federal rules, tolls must be spent on the roads where they are paid.
“The money has to go back into the
road they’re on. It can’t go toward transit or health care or education,” Carlisle told The Globe. “That’s a
concrete and unbendable federal law.”
organization was holding the press conference to announce it had filed a
lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to force the completion of a
series of public transit projects that they say the state promised. During his
press conference, Warburg said his group would be joined in the suit by the
cities of Somerville and Medford and the Arborway Committee.