Massachusetts Follows Gas Tax Hike Plan With $18B Spending Bill
The Massachusetts House overwhelmingly approved a ten-year, $18-billion transportation and infrastructure spending bill. The measure, which now goes to the state Senate, comes one day after the chamber endorsed increasing taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as on corporations.
If approved, the bill would provide $5.6 billion for federal highway system projects, $1.75 billon for non-federally-aided roads and bridges and $1.25 billion for work on bridges and approaches, including two crossings of the Cape Cod Canal.
Other allotments include $2.3 billion to modernize the state’s rail system, including earmarks for several Boston-area subway and commuter rail projects; $825 million to expanding commuter rail service to southeastern Massachusetts using existing abandoned and freight-only lines; $695 million for the ongoing 5-mile Green Line light-rail extension project just north of Boston; and $400 million for commuter rail improvements at Boston’s South Station.
In addition, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority would be required to assess the feasibility of raising all commuter rail platforms to provide access for disabled passengers at every train door. Massachusetts localities would also receive reimbursements of up to $300 million for their own road repair projects, a 50% increase from current levels.
The bill’s future is uncertain, given Gov. Charlie Baker’s (R) opposition to the proposed gas and business tax increases. Last summer, Baker proposed his own $18-billion, bond-funded transportation program that would devote $10.1 billion to road projects and transit and commuter rail expansion work. Baker has also proposed a collaboration with other New England states for a regional cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emission reduction program, which would place a fee on gasoline to generate revenue for transit programs.