Without new revenue sources, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Board of Directors will be forced to follow in the footsteps of last year’s fiasco, cutting MBTA services, while simultaneously raising fares, all in an effort to close a pending budget gap in the next fiscal year.
And it goes much deeper.
Fee increases would then be needed yearly in order to continue to address funding shortfalls to statewide transportion.
According to a new report issued by MassDOT officials this week, titled “The Way Forward: A 21st Century Transportation Plan,” and backed by Governor Deval Patrick and other state leaders, there are options to combat the potential cuts and increases, however.
But in order to build better roads and provide safer transit options for passengers, it would come at a cost to Bay State tax-payers.
“The plan released today is a stark, clear-eyed, non-partisan presentation of the facts,” said Patrick. “If we are serious about improving our transportation system for a generation, then we have to be willing to make the necessary investments.”
Those investments include an array of potential tax hike options, such as an increase in the gas tax, a 0.16 percent payroll tax, boosting the state sales tax to 7.75-percent—or increasing the income tax to roughly 5.66-percent—a new green fee on vehicle registrations, a vehicle miles traveled tax, regular and modest fare, fee and toll increases, and new tolling mechanisms, according to the report.
Through these revenue options, Patrick and MassDOT’s proposal would be able to pump $13 billion worth of capital investments into the state’s highways and public transportation systems over the next decade, to meet the roughly $1 billion average annual investment needed for the infrastructure changes.
The proposal argues that “transportation costs should be shared equitably across all users of our system, not borne disproportionally or arbitrarily by one mode, one region of the Commonwealth, or one subset of travelers.”
“What is clear is that we can’t afford the system we have today, much less the system we all want. This plan clearly articulates our vision for a 21st-Century Transportation system and the steps we must take to achieve that,” said MassDOT Secretary Rich Davey.
The plan includes reforms to current state operations and initiatives in order to realize savings.
Transportation officials said Monday that “without new revenues, the MassDOT Board of Directors will need to cut service at the MBTA…and significantly increase fares” in order to approve a balanced budget for FY 2014, which begins July 1.
Not to mention, a lack of adequate funding would also jeopardize statewide systems like the Regional Transit Authority utilized by customers in Western parts of Massachusetts, and the state’s bridges and roadways.
Last year, the Massachusetts Legislature provided MassDOT with the necessary funds to close the budget gap, and squeak by with minimal fare increases and service cuts.
Elected officials at the time advised MassDOT to prepare a more solid plan for the following fiscal year, so leaders wouldn’t be forced to finagle transportation funding options at the last second.
During the Fall season, MassDOT held seventeen public meetings across the state and gathered feedback from constituents and local elected officials to gauge what type of changes they would like to see on the roads and railways.
The report, presented at UMass Boston on Monday, was a culmination of those requests and ideas.
“This plan lays out ways that we can address the gap between our transportation resources and our needs, prioritize our investments to achieve the maximum benefit for the Commonwealth, and create a world-class transportation system that strengthens our economy and improves our quality of life,” the MassDOT Board said in a statement.
Below is a snapshot of some of the projects MassDOT would like to see go through if the proper funding was available through the proposed revenue options outlined in the report. You can also view the report in its entirety.