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MassDOT Secretary Dismisses Controversy Surrounding Board Restructuring

Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick has released all five members of the state transportation board. The board will be restructured in September, but the move is sparking some controversy. WAMC’s Lucas Willard filed a report…

At the end of the last legislation session, lawmakers were tasked by Governor Patrick to provide short-term funding to prevent service cuts to the MBTA, while moderating fare hikes. The changes took effect immediately to raise fares which sparked controversy in itself,  but also included in the bill was language that would require the Department of Transportation Board to find a long-term funding fix for Massachusetts’ public transit needs and roads and bridges. Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director of MASSPIRG, a group which monitors state public policy, commented on the bill’s expansion of the State transportation board from 5 to 7 members.

MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey said that the Governor sent all five board members letters asking if they’d like to reapply for the new seven-member board.

Some controversy has already bubbled up about the board’s restructuring. According to an article in the Boston Globe, former board member Frederick Alvaro, Jr. expressed that he did not think he would be reappointed to the new seven-member board. Alvaro was critical of the state’s commuter rail service, and also voted against the move raising the MBTA fares. 

In speaking about the situation and the possible speculation that the move to restructure is purely political, Secretary Davey said that Mr. Alvaro had already been reappointed to the former board before.

Secretary Davey said that restructuring has most to do with streamlining  and bringing more minds to the table to tackle the process of properly addressing the state’s transportation needs. The bill approved by the legislature also allows certain projects    to be approved by the Secretary without board approval.

Deirdre Cummings says that MASSPIRG will be keeping an eye on the new board to make sure their long-term tasks are followed through.

A call to the governor’s office was not returned.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.