Higher tolls, taxes proposed in Massachusetts

| Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A transportation commission in Massachusetts has released a list of recommendations to sustain and grow the state’s transportation system. The report includes proposed toll increases, fuel-tax hikes and highway privatization.

The Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission published its 30-page recommendation on Monday, Sept. 17 to urge state legislators to generate more revenue while cutting costs associated with transportation.

The commission is urging lawmakers to “move to a system of direct road user fees as the principal source of transportation funding” in addition to a proposed user fee for all highways of 5 cents per mile and a proposed fuel tax increase of 11.5 cents per gallon in 2008. The current fuel tax in the state is 23.5 cents.

Recommendations stem from a report in March from the same commission that spelled out a transportation deficit of $15 billion to $19 billion during the next 20 years.

Commissioners recommend cutting $2.45 billion in costs while increasing revenue by $18.73 billion during the 20-year timeframe for a total of $21.18 billion.

Cost reform, commissioners stated, would include the transfer of Interstate 394, Interstate 84 and Interstate 291 to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, in addition to rigorous performance audits and the privatization of certain construction jobs including flagmen.

Commissioners briefly outlined possible increases in revenue:

  • $10.5 billion in fuel tax increases
  • $5.5 billion in new user fees
  • $1.9 billion in toll increases based on inflation
  • $530 million in toll increases on the Turnpike Extension and Harbor Tunnels
  • $300 million to balance the Western Turnpike budget

The recommendation also includes an undetermined amount of revenue proposed from privatization of infrastructure, also known as public-private partnerships.

To be implemented, the recommendations would need to be introduced as legislation and approved by state lawmakers.

– By David Tanner, staff writer