Road Repair Compromise Bill Grows to $350 Million

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BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS) – The House will vote Thursday afternoon on a $350 million road and transit funding bill that combines the priorities of the House and Senate and makes $200 million available to cities and towns through the statewide road repair program known as Chapter 90.

Rep. William Straus and Sen. Joe Boncore informally negotiated the compromise on the infrastructure improvement bill after the two branches passed competing versions of the legislation earlier this summer.

Already behind schedule to get the funding out to cities and town, the House on Thursday morning quietly adopted an amendment offered by Straus at the start of its session and hopes to enact the revised bill later in the day. The Mattapoisett Democrat said he expects the Senate will also vote Thursday.

The compromise maintains the $200 million in Chapter 90 funding for municipalities that was in both bills, and puts $25 million in additional funding into six different competitive grant programs, funding everything from bus lanes to electric vehicles and municipal charging stations.

“Philosophically, I think the Legislature’s goal here is to think of the state help to the municipalities in two ways. Not just the traditional Chapter 90, but we’re also now suggesting people think of state assistance in terms of these guided and directed programs for congestion issues, as well as public transit,” Straus said.

Straus’s amendment would authorize $25 million in borrowing for the municipal small bridge program, $25 million for a bottleneck relief program, $25 million for transit-supportive infrastructure, $25 million for municipal bus transit grants, $25 million for municipal mass transit access, and $25 million for electric vehicles and electric-vehicle infrastructure that would be available to cities and towns, as well as regional transit authorities.

The amendment also includes a new section making clear that state COVID-19 recovery funding received through the federal government is eligible to be spent on “maintenance or pay-go funded building of transportation infrastructure, including roads.”

The compromise also excludes language that had been in the original House version of the bill requiring the Department of Transportation to maintain two operational commuter rail tracks on the Framingham/Worcester line during construction of an Allston I-90 viaduct project.

“There was a consistency issue here. We’re happy to support programs in general and there are likely to be other opportunities in the session for project specific work by the Legislature,” Straus said.

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