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February 18, 2013

Localized road projects targeted by state bill

BOSTON — Seeking an end to the waiting game played annually by municipal officials from Cape Ann to Cape Cod and the Berkshires, with Transportation Secretary Richard Davey looking to file a 10-year, $3 billion bond bill to fund local road and other transportation projects.

“It’s very difficult for cities and towns to plan if we are not providing you with a stable set of resources or a five-year capital plan,” Davey told Local Government Advisory Commission members at a meeting Tuesday outside Gov. Deval Patrick’s office.

Davey said that “in the next couple weeks,” the governor plans to file a bond bill that would fund the Chapter 90 program at an annual rate of $300 million, tied to the consumer price index, for 10 years.

If passed, the bond bill would end the process of municipal officials waiting each year for the House, Senate and governor to agree on Chapter 90 amounts, an exercise that can run up construction costs and delay needed projects and jobs. Last year, the Chapter 90 bill didn’t become law until August, late in the road construction season. The deadline for a Chapter 90 bill is April 1.

Funding local roads at $300 million would represent a 50 percent increase from the annual funding level of $200 million this year and the year before.

The multi-year local road funding bill is part of Gov. Deval Patrick’s transportation repair and expansion proposal, funded by a planned overhaul of the tax code that would raise the income tax, lower the sales tax, and eliminate dozens of tax incentives to raise about $1.9 billion more per year.

“Right now, we are going to make a decision – all of us – about what kind of Commonwealth we want and whether we’re going to invest in it, whether we’re going to sacrifice for it,” Patrick said of his plans for transportation investment. “Whether it matters to people who use The Ride, or need a train to run late so they can get home from work or school or who need a bus route to expand so that it unlocks economic opportunity where they live and where they want to work, where the regions of the Commonwealth that have gone ignored for a long time because they only thing we think to invest in was the Big Dig.

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