Massachusetts governor seeks nearly $6 billion for transportation work

| 8/15/2007

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has unveiled a capital investment plan that would allot $5.72 billion in borrowed money for transportation projects in the state.

The proposed five-year, $12 billion capital budget also includes funding for schools, housing and environmental protection. Nearly $9 billion would be raised by floating bonds, with the rest coming from federal grants.

More than $1.1 billion would be earmarked for transportation in fiscal year 2008, which would be a 25 percent increase from the current fiscal year. The new funding includes $613 million for statewide road and bridge repair projects – up $80 million from a year ago.

It also includes $3.4 million for the initial planning stages of a $1.4 billion rail link from Boston to New Bedford.

While the investment plan includes a good chunk of change, Patrick said it only partly trims a transportation funding shortfall of up to $19 billion during the next 20 years.

“We have to think about some additionally new revenues,” Patrick told the Boston Herald.

Some ideas discussed by state officials to eat into the funding gap include higher fuel taxes, raising tolls or implementing congestion pricing on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The governor must convince lawmakers to approve the bonds needed to pay for his plans. Bills to authorize those bonds are expected to be filed in the fall.

Critics of the plan have a cautionary message for the governor. They say Patrick needs to make sure his plans for new spending don’t outpace the state’s revenues or ability to borrow money.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Massachusetts in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor