In a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning, Governor Deval Patrick confirmed his plans to use an influx of state money to purchase $1.3 billion of new Red and Orange line MBTA cars — and hinted at other plans of how to spend the lump of cash provided by the state’s new transportation finance law, which could include establishing rail service to the South Coast.
Since July, when state legislators passed a law that raised taxes to bring $800 million annually in transportation funding, officials have been ironing out a strategy on how to spend that money. Patrick said Tuesday that the complete details of his transportation spending plan will be released before Thanksgiving.His speech suggested that his controversial proposal to implement rail service from Boston to Fall River and New Bedford may be on that list of projects he intends to fund.
When asked by someone in the audience about what criteria he will be using to prioritize transportation projects, Patrick said he will place a premium on projects that benefit people outside of just the greater Boston area.
Patrick recalled that earlier this year, as he traveled the state to drum up support for tax increases to fund transportation, it was suggested to him that “we should pretend like we were going to fund South Coast Rail and humor the proponents till I was out of office, and kill the project,” Patrick said.
“Which, by the way,” Patrick continued, “is what folks in the South Coast expect people in Boston to do.”
Patrick, apparently displeased with the idea of scrapping the plan for the new rail line, went on to explain what he sees as the economic benefits of the project, which would provide quick access between Boston and the southern part of the state.
“Imagine if you worked here in Boston and could get a fast train to New Bedford and live affordably on the water within 45 minutes,” Patrick said. “It completely transforms the way we think about economic growth.”
Patrick’s speech also touched on the plans for open road tolling — which eliminates toll booths and instead uses EZ-Pass and license plate recognition cameras to bill drivers — as well as plans to use toll money to straighten the Allston stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike to alleviate gridlock and reduce fumes emitted by idling cars.
“We have shown that investing in education, innovation, and infrastructure—alongside reform and modernization of government itself—is a way not just to endure recession but also to create a brighter future,” Patrick said.