House lightly amends, passes $275M transportation bill

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – The Massachusetts House unanimously approved a $275 million road maintenance and transit investment package on Tuesday as a top lawmaker called for additional action this session to direct more money to the state’s transportation needs.

The bill (H 3903) directs $200 million to the Chapter 90 program, which the state uses to reimburse cities and towns for road and bridge work, and another $75 million to grant programs funding small bridge repairs and municipal public transit needs. It cleared the House on a 160-0 vote and now moves to the Senate.

The House adopted an amendment from Rep. Michael Moran of Brighton requiring that the Department of Transportation maintain two operational commuter rail tracks on the Framingham/Worcester Line during construction of an Allston I-90 megaproject and another amendment from Salem Rep. Paul Tucker authorizing the state to use money from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund to pay for transportation infrastructure.

All 37 other amendments, mostly consisting of local earmarks, were withdrawn without public debate. In recent years, Beacon Hill has typically settled on a one-year pot of $200 million in Chapter 90 funding despite calls from municipal groups for at least $300 million and multi-year authorizations to support additional local projects.

The House bill also increases funding in three other transportation grant programs by $25 million each, boosting the total amount for a municipal small bridges program to $90 million, for municipal bus transit grants to $50 million and for municipal mass transit access grants to $50 million.

Transportation Committee Co-chair Rep. William Straus cautioned that even with the spending on municipal small bridges, Massachusetts will backslide on measures of bridge quality “within two to three years” unless Beacon Hill commits to additional funding increases.

“We’re doing this today with an added $25 million for the municipal-level bridges, and I hope we have the means ultimately at some point in this session to point out to the administration that we still need to be spending more money on our transportation system,” Straus said. “Otherwise, we are not meeting the responsibility we have.”

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