CITING “CRUMBLING” ROADS, MUNI GROUP SEEKS BIG HIKE IN STATE AID
By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 18, 2012…..There is a $362 million funding gap between what Massachusetts cities and towns require to maintain roads in a “state of good repair” and the amount of state funding currently available for local roadways, according to Massachusetts Municipal Association survey results released on Tuesday.
“The MMA’s survey results reveal that cities and towns in Massachusetts need to spend $562 million every year to rebuild and maintain local roads in a state of good repair, but communities spend far less because of inadequate resources,” the report states. “The result can be seen in potholes and crumbling roads across the state.”
State funding for local roads, known as Chapter 90, is currently at $200 million per year. The MMA, which represents cities and towns, is asking for a 50 percent funding increase to begin more aggressively addressing the gap and to bring the annual allocation up to $300 million per year for the next five years.
In January, the Patrick administration and the Legislature are planning to discuss a new transportation financing proposal, a discussion that was speeded along by a funding crisis at the MBTA last year that was solved with fare hikes and a state bailout. Chapter 90 strategies will likely figure into the discussion.
With spending on track to outpace revenues, Gov. Deval Patrick this month outlined a $540 million budget-balancing plan featuring across-the-board cuts and drawing heavily from the state’s reserves. Economic experts say slow growth means tax revenue growth will only slightly improve next year.
Every year, the Legislature allocates funding to municipalities for local roads projects, and the $200 million disbursed to cities and towns was a record high last year. This year the state kept the same funding level.
For the past two years, the Legislature has delayed the final approval of Chapter 90 funds, leading to some frustration from local officials who often can’t afford to undertake road projects without the assurance that the state will foot the bill.
“There is today a deep level of frustration with what is happening with Chapter 90, frustration around what should be a good story,” Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivann said in June, months after the April 1 notification date called for in state law.
Providing adequate funding to keep roads in good repair prevents them from turning into more costly projects, according to the MMA, which said each $1 spent to keep roads properly maintained results in savings of $6 to $10 in avoided costs of more extensive repairs.
“If Massachusetts fails to pass a comprehensive transportation finance plan to address the critical funding needs at the local and state levels, taxpayers will face massive bills over the next 20 years to reconstruct a deteriorating system,” the MMA report said.
Cities and towns are tasked with maintaining 30,000 miles of road throughout the state.