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OPINION: Transportation Transformation: Stability, Safety & Equity

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The following was written by State Senator Katherine Clark:

The Commonwealth’s public transportation network must be transformed.  We need a solution that is financially stable, modernized, reliable and affordable.  We must include all regions of the state and all parts of the network – roads and bridges, buses and rail, bike access and pedestrian safety.  Our system must be innovative, recognizing that our state’s economy depends on a transportation network that efficiently connects individuals to their jobs, students to their schools, and communities to each other.  As we build such a system, we also must address past mismanagement, crushing debt, and years of underinvestment in our public infrastructure.  And we cannot afford to wait.

There is broad agreement on these points among the business community, state and local government officials, our schools and universities, our neighborhood advocates, and our families.  But how we go about creating such a system is a source of debate.

To help direct our future transportation investment and build a system that is equitable, affordable, reliable and financially sound for the long-term, I introduced An Act relative to transportation investment, regional fairness, and accountability to state policies that was developed with Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA). 

The purpose of this bill is to guide our transportation investments by:

·     Promoting Financial Stability
For far too long, we have been funding our public transit operating expenses with debt, essentially borrowing money to pay rent, employee salaries and other day-to-day expenses.  This practice is not sustainable, and this bill would eliminate it.

·      Creating Regional Equity
This legislation will promote equity by requiring that our investments benefit the entire state, and specifically the Commonwealth’s 13 regional planning areas.  It also supports design and planning for projects in our Gateway Cities.

·      Making Smarter Investments that Support Our Policies
Our transportation projects – whether new construction or expansions – should comply with stated policies already on the books.  This legislation would require that all projects with a projected capital cost of more than $15,000,000 in state funds be analyzed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) for their potential impact on economic growth and job creation, public health, our environment, and on our seniors and low-income neighborhoods.  It would also require that sufficient funds be available for maintenance and critical safety improvements.

Additional revenue and reform are part of this picture as well, and they are at the top of our legislative agenda for this session.  But even as we consider sources of revenue for transportation, and demand more reform, we must commit to investing those funds wisely.  Whatever the source, our state dollars must build a more financially stable, safer, and modern transportation system across the entire Commonwealth that is consistent with our environmental goals and promotes economic development and job creation.

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