By G. Michael Dobbs
BOSTON – According to a report released on Jan. 9, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will recommend the spending of $12.4 billion on highways, bridges, rail, transit and aeronautics projects.
In his forward, to the MassDOT Capital Investment Plan, Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey urges citizens to attend one of the public meetings planned across the state to voice their opinions of it. The two meetings scheduled for Western Massachusetts will be Feb. 3 at the Bangs Community center in Amherst and on the same date in Pittsfield at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Both meetings are from 6 to 8 p.m.
The project that will be the largest in Western Massachusetts would be “$260 million to rehabilitate the I-90 Springfield Viaduct from the North End Bridge to the Memorial Bridge and conclude a review of options for the viaduct in downtown Springfield.”
Although a rail connection from Springfield to a commuter rail line being planned in Connecticut has been discussed for a number years by area elected officials as well as the possibility of connecting Springfield by commuter rail to the MBTA lines in Worcester, neither of those projects are covered in the report.
Funding for the projects would be “drawn from existing sources – federal reimbursements and grants, state borrowings and an expansive toll funded capital plan, as well as funding for new projects and initiatives made possible by recent revenue increases included in the 2013 transportation finance legislation,” the report noted.
The report addressed the issue of “regional equity” for transportation projects and described it as a “core responsibility” for MassDOT.
The report noted, “Numerous reports and public debates over the past 20 years have demonstrated the economic, health and public benefits of the Big Dig in Boston. As those benefits are rightfully celebrated, many recognize that the Big Dig crowded out nearly all other projects outside of Boston. That lack of investment was an ethical and economic failing. As a commonwealth, we cannot focus our efforts on one region or one city. Those who read this investment plan may argue that additional expansion is unwarranted and unwise. However, we must consider those residents of the Commonwealth with no or limited access to public transit and decent roads. The investments selected in this plan and by a future administration should leave no one behind. That is why this capital plan expands the Green Line to Somerville and Medford and the Commuter Rail to Fall River and New Bedford. South Station expansion is advanced in order to increase the frequency and reliability of trains to and from Metro West and Central Massachusetts, as well as Amtrak service up and down the East Coast. Investments in roads and bridges are regionally balanced to ensure that local and regional priorities are addressed and that reliable bus service outside of Boston is available seven days a week.”
Other planned expenditures that will affect Western Massachusetts include $255 million for “the regional transit initiatives that include the purchase of senior citizen transportation vans for local Council on Aging, replacement of regional transit authorities’ buses and improvements to maintenance depots, including the Springfield Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and other intermodal facilities.”
There will be $3.3 billion allocated for bridge repair across the state as well as $130 million in funds for the construction or reconstruction of bikeway and bike path improvements, including rail trails and scenic byways.”
Municipalities will divide $200 million a year for the Chapter 90 road repair funds and $572 per year will be spent by MassDOT on other municipal road projects.
The state also plans to spend $99.5 million to modernize the Register of Motor Vehicles’ Automated License and Registration Renewal System (ALARS) and $43 million to “advance the ‘Reimagining RMV’ plan, in collaboration with the ALARS project, to significantly upgrade the quality of services provided by the department.”
For more information on the plan go to www.massdot.state.ma.us/wemove