Transportation for Massachusetts, Conservation Law Foundation, and MASSPIRG Release 2nd Installment of Keeping On Track

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Kirstie Pecci

Progress report shows habitual under-funding for snow removal and that total amount of funding still insufficient to meet all of state’s transportation needs

MASSPIRG Education Fund

Boston, MA – Transportation for Massachusetts, the Conservation Law Foundation and MASSPIRG today released their second progress report on funding and reforms created by the Transportation Finance Act of 2013.  The report, Keeping on Track: Our Second Progress Report on Reforming and Funding Transportation Since Passage of the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Act of 2013, finds that significant transportation improvements have been made across the state in in the first completed fiscal year.  However, the amount of revenue raised in the 2013 funding bill is still not sufficient to meet the Commonwealth’s ongoing and future transportation needs or to support the state’s economy.

“This month Mother Nature showed us what happens when we mix snow with a transportation network desperate for upgrades,” said Kristina Egan, director of Transportation for Massachusetts.  “If we want reliable, safe and modern rails and roads, we need to invest in repairs.”

“Our second progress report measures actual revenues and expenditures against projections for the first fiscal year complete since passage of the 2013 legislation, and finds we fall short a small amount,” said Rafael Mares, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation and co-author of the report. “Watching some of the trends closely, it becomes clear, however, that in future years this gap will grow. Overall, there still is not enough revenue to cover important transportation needs.”

 The report finds that:

·      Actuals fell $41 million short of projections, a small difference for a budget of over $2 billion, but a difference that will grow larger in years to come.

·      Estimates for MassDOT’s ice removal costs ($44 million) were much less than actual costs ($134 million last year, and an average of $80 million per year between FY08 and FY12). Given the record-breaking snowfall this winter, and increased costs for salt, this category will continue to strain budgets in the future.

·      The motor vehicles sales tax brought in $32 million more than was projected due to an unexpected increase in car sales. This was a national trend — people delayed purchasing their vehicles during harder times, but it is unlikely to continue at the same rate.

·      Prior to any fare increase, the MBTA collected $31 million more in fares than originally projected.

“Over the past year Massachusetts got lucky and the funding gap was narrowed by a boost in MBTA fare revenues and motor vehicle sales tax,” said Kirstie Pecci, staff attorney at MASSPIRG and co-author of the report. “Astronomical snow and ice removal costs, and the loss of anticipated funds from indexing the gas tax will result in a much wider gap in the future.”

Despite insufficient revenue for additional projects in FY14, MassDOT and the MBTA were able to begin a number of capital and operational improvements. For instance:

·      A new stop on the CapeFLYER was added to Wareham.

·      The MBTA signed a contract for the procurement of Red and Orange Line cars.

·      MassDOT plans to build a new commuter rail station in Allston.

·      All electronic tolling on the Tobin Bridge was implemented.

·      The regional transit authorities, MBTA late-night service, and new and reinstated weekend commuter rail service have been implemented.

However, without additional investment, similar progress in upcoming years is unlikely.

“Keeping on Track” is the second report in a series of reports tracking the implementation of the 2013 Act.