It’s not just the MBTA that is in crisis. The entire transportation system of the Commonwealth is suffering from years of under-investment.
The Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission reported in March, 2007, that our roads, bridges, highways, tunnels, parkways, regional transit authorities (RTAs), and the MBTA would need an additional $1 billion in funding over the next 10 years to put the system into a "state of good repair" – and we haven’t yet undertaken such an investment.
It’s essential – not just to our ability to get around, but to the health of our economy – that we increase revenue dedicated to our transportation system as a whole.
We reformed the state’s transportation bureaucracy in 2009, creating a unified Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), introducing better coordination and new efficiencies. We must now take the harder step of raising revenue, and in a variety of ways, so we aren’t overly reliant on any single revenue source.
We haven’t raised the tax on gasoline since 1990; if we had raised the rate by a penny a year since then, our transportation system wouldn’t be in crisis.
For reasons of equity as well as revenue, we need to toll our main north-south highway, I-95, the same way that we toll our main east-west highway, the Turnpike. Given the debt we assumed for the Big Dig, it is astonishing to me that we do not toll most of its infrastructure to pay for it and to maintain it.
"Tolling" no longer means collectors in booths, but technology; universal transponder systems developed in Massachusetts are used the world over – but not here.
It is time to adopt innovative approaches, not just for raising revenue, but to make transportation funding more equitable and to better manage congestion, service, and the health impacts of our transportation system. Some ideas for doing so are in the transportation reform bills I filed in the last session (H.2659), and the session previous to that (H.4033).