Senate passes transportation bill tonight capping a rare Saturday session

The Senate voted overwhelmingly tonight to approve a transportation finance bill that would funnel more than $800 million into the state’s transit agencies by fiscal 2018 in what seemed a compromise between packages proposed by House legislators and Governor Deval Patrick in recent weeks.

Democrat legislators who voted for the bill sought to offer a more amped-up version of the $500 million House bill, passed Monday, by finding revenue sources that would not require further tax increases.

In addition to redirecting money from a little-known gas tax fund for underground storage tanks and requiring contracts between the state Transportation Department and utility companies, the Senate also voted Saturday to require that transportation and MBTA officials issue a request for proposals on licensing the naming rights to subway, bus, and commuter rail stations.

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After the 30-5 vote, Patrick expressed mixed feelings on the bill.

“Today’s Senate bill is a significant step in that direction and I commend them for their work,” he said in a statement. But, he continued, “it is concerning that some of the resources in this bill are diverted from current spending on other needs.”

But Senator Thomas M. McGee, cochairman of the Joint Transportation Committee, said he considered the bill a success.

“I feel good about what we’ve done today,” McGee said, “but it’s an ongoing issue that we need to focus on every year.”

The transportation finance package is far from settled. The bill will move on to a joint conference committee before it makes its way to the governor’s desk.

But it’s a coup for Patrick, who was angered when the House proposed a package he deemed too small, threatening a veto and urging legislators to tack other sources of revenue onto the bill.

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