GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

May 25, 2013

City, town road funds await governor's OK

By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — BOSTON — Gloucester is targeted to receive more than $1 million in so-called Chapter 90 funding for local road improvements, paving and repair projects — and Cape Ann is in line to receive more than $1.7 milion overall — but much of the summer repair season could slip away if Gov. Deval Patrick does not sign the bill immediately, advocates say.

The state Senate voted 39-0 Thursday to send the overall $300 million legislation — already approved by the House — to the governor for his signature. But while the governor initially pushed for the money to be allocated in Chapter 90 funding, he has yet to sign off on its distribution.

“It is imperative that cities and towns across the state get these highway funds in time to sign contracts, put men and women to work and pave these roads,” said David Knowlton, Massachusetts Highway Association president. “We missed most of the warm weather last year because the funding did not come in time to sign contracts, and that means many of our roads are badly in need of work.

“We’ve had a rough winter,” he added, “and putting off this work will lead to more dangerous roads and more expensive repairs in the future.”

The Chapter 90 funds, drawn from the gas tax, are responsible for the paving and upkeep of 30,000 miles of roads in cities and towns across the Commonwealth. And, out of the $300 million, Gloucester is pegged to receive $1,010,917, Essex $200,724, Manchester $223,241, and Rockport $290,199.

Gloucester Public Works Director Mike Hale has noted not only the importance of the funding, but of its timely release.

“We cannot afford to have our potholed, fractured roads go another year without work,” Hale said in an earlier “My View’” column that appeared in the Times. “If even one other season passes us by, the costs could soar from a simple leveling and top course to more expensive replacements.”

Knowlton added that Gloucester and Cape Ann’s towns are hardly alone; if Chapter 90 funds are not released soon, he said, many projects will have to be postponed. These delays will inevitably cost both the taxpayers and state in the long run.

“While the entire transportation initiative is important for the Commonwealth, these funds are unique because of weather constraints and the time and work that goes into organizing road crews,” said Knowlton.

“Last year, Chapter 90 funding was delayed until the end of the summer and we lost 60 percent of the season,” Knowlton said. “We have a long list of road projects we are waiting to get started on — in Gloucester, Cape Ann and around the Commonwealth.”