(FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has released a long-awaited plan to invest $13 billion in the state's aging transportation system over 10 years; however, in order to create the additional revenue, the report recommends certain tax increases, as well as additional fees.
The Department of Transportation initially planned to release the report earlier in the month, but Gov. Deval Patrick said he told officials that "a little more work" was needed after reviewing a draft version.
"What's plain as day is that we have to make choices. We can choose to invest in ourselves, to invest in a growth strategy that has been proven time and again to work. Or we can choose to do nothing. But let us be clear: doing nothing is a choice, too," said Gov. Patrick. "And that choice has consequences. It means longer commutes, cuts in services, larger fare and fee increases, and a continuation of the self-defeating economics of cutting off large parts of our population from opportunity and growth."
The plan calls for $5.2 billion over ten years in road, bridge and highway repair projects in order to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges and ease congestion on major arteries throughout the state. Another $3.8 billion will go to existing transit services, and $275 million for Registry and airport maintenance.
Officials said $1.02 billion will be spent annually on a number of high-impact transportation projects. Transportation officials said they hope the projects create thousands of jobs and spur economic development across the state.
The plan is also designed to address budget deficits at the MBTA, MassDOT and various other regional transportation agencies.
According to the report, the suggested revenue options, essentially certain tax hikes and fees, were proposed by members of the public and other stake holders over the last year.
"We have spent the last year engaging our customers, the business community and various stakeholders in a conversation about what kind of transportation system they want," said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey. "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 achieves that."
The revenue recommendations include an increase in the gas tax, payroll tax, sales tax or income tax; a new green fee on vehicle registrations; a vehicle miles traveled tax; regular and modest fare, fee and toll increases; and new tolling mechanisms. The plan also assumes that tolls are maintained on the Western portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Officials said money will go toward helping MassDOT and other regional transit authorities end their practice of paying for general operating costs with loans, a practice that costs MassDOT about $1.76 in interest for each dollar borrowed.
In order to end the practice of borrowing and inflated interest, the MassDOT will receive $371 million during the 2014 fiscal year and $4.4 billion over 10 years. The Regional Transit Authorities will receive $100 million during the 2014 fiscal year and $1.1 billion over 10 years.
Without new revenues to be generated by additional taxes and fees on state residents, the MassDOT Board of Directors will need to cut service at the MBTA and RTAs and significantly increase fares in order to approve a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which begins July 1.
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