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Long Term Funding Plan Being Prepared For Mass. Transportation

Sturmovik at en.wikipedia

Massachusetts is facing huge budget deficits in its highway and mass transit systems. The Patrick administration is likely to call early next year for higher taxes and tolls.  The state, meanwhile, is putting millions of dollars more into a major transportation project in western Massachusetts.   WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

A report from a Boston based think tank this week said the Massachusetts highway system is staring at a $240 million dollar budget deficit next year , and the MBTA, the state’s largest regional transit authority, serving greater Boston will be in the  red to the tune of $130 million.

This new report, from the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University comes almost six years after a bipartisan commission first  sounded an alarm about the state transportation system’s unsustainable financial condition.

The Patrick administration has until January 7 to deliver to the state legislature a proposal to close the gap between what is currently spent and what is needed to maintain and operate the state’s highways, bridges and mass transit.

The Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, who  has held a series of public hearings all across the state this fall to raise awareness of what’s to come.

The gasoline tax, the primary source of revenue for highway repairs in Massachusetts has been at 21 cents per gallon since 1991. The Patrick administration tried  unsuccessfully to raise it in 2009. In addition to revisiting the gasoline tax, the administration is likely to look at other taxes, higher tolls and perhaps revenue from casinos.

The state is putting more money into a major transportation project in western Massachusetts. Governor Patrick, Tuesday, announced the state will close a $4 million dollar funding gap for the reconstruction of Union Station in Springfield.   

Governor Patrick announced the additional state funding as he took part in a ceremonial demolition of a section of  the wall of the derelict train station to kick off what will be a $48 million dollar renovation.  The project will create a transportation hub in Springfield for future  high speed rail in the northeast. Governor Patrick said expanding passenger rail is connected to economic recovery.

The state has now put almost $10 million into the Union Station project in Springfield. The bulk of the money for the project has come from the federal government through the efforts of Congressman Richard Neal.

Neal has championed efforts to revitalize Union Station since he was the mayor of Springfield nearly three decades ago.

Springfield’s current mayor, Domenic Sarno, believes firmly that  the  Union Station project will provide an economic lift to downtown.

The new Union Station will bring to one location services for  regional transit buses, intercity buses, Amtrak and commuter train.   It is expected to be on line by late 2014 or early 2015.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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