Thursday, April 12, 2012

Senate GOP Caucus promotes transportation reforms

The Massachusetts Senate Republican Caucus has filed a series of transportation reform initiatives as part of a $1.5 billion Transportation Bond Bill scheduled for debate in the Senate this afternoon.

The bond bill – which authorizes state borrowing for construction, repairs and improvements to federal highways, roads, bridges and rail projects throughout the Commonwealth – also includes a $200 million authorization for cities and towns to pay for local roadway projects under the Chapter 90 program.
The Senate Republican Caucus strongly supports the release of Chapter 90 funding to our cities and towns, but we also see tomorrow’s debate as an opportunity to promote additional transportation reforms that will have a lasting impact. At a time when the MBTA is struggling to provide needed services and remain financially solvent, road and bridge projects are in tremendous need of funds, and commuters are suffering from high transportation costs, we can’t afford to ignore any opportunity to save money, reform the system, and prioritize spending for the most important transportation needs of our state.

The caucus filed amendments that would:

• Prohibit the MBTA from expanding services until the authority has a plan in place to pay for those services and can certify that the expansion will not adversely impact any existing services;

• Require the MBTA to file a report detailing its efforts to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on state subsidies and fare increases;

• Prohibit individuals who lack legal immigration status from obtaining a driver’s license;

• Establish a special commission to evaluate the feasibility of the continued operation of the Worcester Airport by the Massachusetts Port Authority, and to determine the most cost-beneficial means of maximizing the benefit to the citizens of the Commonwealth, including but not limited to the sale or lease of the facility;

• Direct the Attorney General to issue a report detailing the state’s potential sources of recovery on any present or reasonably foreseeable claims resulting from negligent or wrongful acts or omissions resulting from the Big Dig;

• Require the Secretary of Transportation to maximize efforts to minimize the use of capital funding to pay for state employee’s salaries while also developing a timeline for moving the salaries of all such employees on to their agencies’ operating budgets by December 31, 2014;

• Authorize and direct the Inspector General to conduct an audit of the state’s bond indebtedness relative to projects undertaken or scheduled to be undertaken as a result of legal judgments and court orders stemming from the Big Dig project;

• Direct the Secretary of Transportation to identify structurally deficient bridges and prioritize a schedule for addressing these deficiencies; and

• Require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to offer a discount program for owners of multiple commercial vehicles in order to generate additional revenues for the Commonwealth by encouraging businesses to register their vehicles in-state.