Governor wants to scrap Massachusetts Turnpike Authority

| 10/3/2007

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and his administration want to do away with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority as part of a plan to create a new state transportation agency, the Boston Herald has reported.

According to the Herald, Patrick wants to consolidate all ground transportation agencies – including the Massachusetts Highway Department, the turnpike authority and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority – and place all roadways and bridges currently operated by the Department of Conservation and Massachusetts Port Authority under the new umbrella.

The new agency would be called the Massachusetts Transportation Authority, or MassTrans, the Herald reported, and would be run by political appointees designated by the governor.

Airports, railways and ports, which have their own agencies, would remain separate from MassTrans.

“Nothing has been filed as far as legislation or any formal written proposal,” Sandra Marchione, research director for the state House and Senate’s Joint Committee on Transportation, told Land Line. “It’s an idea that the administration has been exploring that has come out in the paper.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s office did not immediately return Land Line’s calls.

The governor, according to the Herald, believes the state can use the consolidation to cut waste, avoid a fuel-tax increase and refinance $10 billion in debts to get the state’s transportation budget back on track.

A study by the Massachusetts Finance Commission shows that $19 billion will be needed during the next 20 years for state transportation to remain afloat. The state has more than 500 structurally deficient bridges.

The administration contends the consolidation would also eliminate the need to increase the fuel tax by 11.5 cents as the commission report recommended.

Patrick’s plans will require state legislative approval at various stages.

The Herald obtained a document from the Patrick administration that reads: “It’s clear that important, fundamental changes are needed in the way we finance and govern transportation in the commonwealth. The Patrick administration looks forward to working with the Legislature – and the public – in a collective effort to shape the new system.”

Former Gov. Mitt Romney advocated merging the turnpike authority with the highway department in his State of the State speech in January 2005, and the topic has occasionally surfaced in the state legislature.

A Massachusetts Turnpike Authority spokesman had not returned Land Line’s calls on the subject as of press time.

– By David Tanner, staff writer