Saturday, 2:15 PM
State Senate would create transportation superagency
By Globe Staff
State Senate leaders today unveiled a proposal to restructure the state’s transportation system that would bring the Turnpike, the MBTA, and the state Highway Department, under one agency titled the Massachusetts Surface Transportation Authority.
The new quasi-public agency would also oversee roads and bridges managed by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Tobin Bridge, which is owned by Massport.
The new superagency would simplify operations and reduce costs, with potential savings of up to $6.5 billlion over 20 years, the leaders said in a statement.
“The idea is to streamline, eliminate redundancies between agencies, and make sense of the current system,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “We think this plan does that.”
“As the Senate has stressed all along, we need to look at all opportunities to reform the current system and make the best decisions for the Commonwealth. Creating the most efficient system must be our first priority,” Murray said in a statement.
Governor Deval Patrick has said he is working on his own proposal to restructure the state's transportation system, but no details have been released.
The Senate proposal comes as financial problems loom over both the Turnpike and the MBTA. The Turnpike has preliminarily approved a steep toll hike, inspiring some lawmakers to search for alternatives, including an increase in the gas tax.
Murray and Senator Steven A. Baddour, chairman of the Transportation Committee, said the Turnpike should freeze the tolls while the Legislature works on a broader solution. At the same time, the Senate plan did not call for a gas tax increase. Murray said the Senate was emphasizing "reform before revenue."
Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei said in a statement that the plan was the first that "fully addresses the complicated financial and structural problems we are facing."