Massachusetts law authorizes $12.7 billion in transportation bonds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick recently signed a bill into law to increase borrowing to pay for needed transportation work around the state.

The five-year, $12.7 billion transportation bond bill is touted as allowing the state to move ahead with construction plans for high-profile transportation projects.

One project in line to benefit is the first phase of reconstruction on Interstate 91 in Springfield, Mass. The project has a price tag of $230 million.

H4046 also includes $300 million in Chapter 90 funding. The program provides local road repair funds, which get divided among municipalities based on a formula.

Other projects in line for funding are the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Green Line extension to Medford, expansion of the South Coast commuter rail line, and improvements to Boston’s South Station. The projects will receive up to $1.3 billion, $2.3 billion and $325 million, respectively.

Advocates note that while Patrick’s signature on the bill authorizes borrowing, it doesn’t guarantee that all projects move forward.

A transportation financing bill approved by lawmakers one year ago provides more money to repay bonds.

In July 2013, state lawmakers voted to override the governor’s veto of a 10-year transportation funding package that will raise nearly $800 million in taxes annually by 2018.

Specifically, the state’s fuel tax rate was increased by 3 cents to 24-cents-per-gallon. The tax rate was also tied to inflation, which allows for regular increases. In addition, a 2.5-cent portion of the tax that was applied to underground storage tank cleanups was rerouted to transportation.

The funding package included putting money to transportation from other sources. Roads and bridges now benefit from the addition of $1 on cigarette taxes and imposing the state sales tax on computer software services.

The software tax was later removed because of concerns from technology companies.

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