“It’s not only long overdue, it’s a question of economic and environmental justice and equity,” said Gary Shepard, administrator of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, which runs buses along 14 routes across a geographic area as large as Rhode Island.
Those buses move half a million riders annually even though most routes operate once an hour, and even though service is scarce on Saturdays, absent on Sundays, and stops at 7 p.m. weekdays. An estimated two-thirds of passengers do not own cars, so they are out of luck for reaching medical appointments at other hours or accessing weekend and evening jobs prevalent in the tourist-heavy Berkshires, Shepard said.
The budget for repairing and updating roads, bridges, and transit equipment would grow from an existing $12 billion, 10-year program — which analysts say fails to keep up with the state’s vast and growing backlog of deferred maintenance — to $25 billion. That is possible with $1 billion in new annual taxes because the state would issue bonds that would generate far more revenue and would be repaid over decades.
Where past legislative debates have unsuccessfully pitted Boston against the rest of the state and transit against highways, the administration called for investing that new money statewide and across transportation modes.
That something-for-everyone approach includes $430 million over 10 years to expand statewide bicycle and pedestrian paths and lanes as highways and bridges are rebuilt, to help the state reduce car trips and reach greenhouse-gas targets; nearly $3 billion for MBTA fleet replacements, with some of the production work being done in Massachusetts; and nearly $4 billion to modernize aging highway interchanges, bridges, and tunnels.
Of the $25 billion program Patrick envisions, about $4 billion in the next decade would go to expansion instead of repair, replacement, and modernization, Davey said.
That is aimed at rail: South Coast Rail ($1.8 billion), a Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford ($674 million, to match anticipated federal funds), expansion and reconstruction of South Station to accommodate nearly twice as many trains ($850 million), extension of east-west commuter rail from Boston to Springfield ($362 million), enhancement of north-south freight lines in the Berkshires to connect with Metro-North and Amtrak passenger lines through Connecticut to New York City ($114 million), and rail and infrastructure improvements to restart summer passenger trains between Boston and Cape Cod ($21 million).
Davey said the plan omitted many worthy and long-awaited projects, such as a Red Line-Blue Line connector and a transit loop around Boston known as the Urban Ring, to focus on maintenance.
“There were many folks who were disappointed this wasn’t a bigger package,” he said. “There were a lot of projects we said no to, and maybe 10 years from now someone else can accomplish.”
Eric Moskowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.