Mass Senate Passes Bill to Authorize Funding for Transportation Infrastructure, Creates New MBTA Leadership

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The following is a press release from Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka’s office submitted to SOURCE media.

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BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed legislation to invest in municipal transportation projects and establish a new leadership board for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

The bill, An Act financing improvements to municipal roads and bridges, authorizes $300 million in municipal roads and bridges through bonding, an $80 million increase over the 2019 Chapter 90 appropriation. The legislation also establishes a new seven-member MBTA Board of Directors to succeed the current oversight body, known as the Fiscal Management and Control Board. The MBTA Board of Directors will be responsible for governing and exercising corporate powers of the MBTA. 

“I believe we need a reliable, sustainable, safe, accessible and equitable transportation system in this Commonwealth, and this legislation puts us on the right path to achieving that goal,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “As a proponent of regional equity in transportation, I am thrilled to assist our cities and towns with increased funding for infrastructure projects. I also look forward to seeing the formation of the new MBTA Board of Directors and working with this new inclusive body on shaping a true 21st Century transit system. I’d like to acknowledge Senators Boncore and Moore for their hard work in advancing this legislation.”

The legislation must now be reconciled with the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

“Through fully reimbursing vital capital projects, Chapter 90 funding is one of the most important ways that we can provide direct support to communities in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D – Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.  “I applaud Senate President Spilka and Senator Boncore for their leadership on transportation in Massachusetts, and my colleagues for recognizing the importance of maintaining our local infrastructure during this uncertain economic time.”

“Each unique geographic area of the Commonwealth will benefit from this legislation. It was critical that this bill address immediate needs while the Senate continues to work on long-term improvements to our transportation system,” said Senate Transportation Committee Chair Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop). “This $300 million investment will kick start the economy by financing critical local infrastructure projects to advance our statewide transportation system. This legislation not only improves the experiences of those on our roads, but also those who depend on train and bus service. We are proud knowing that the MBTA now has a permanent, professional governance structure that represents riders, MBTA laborers, and transportation planners.”

“I am pleased that we were able to increase the funding allocated for road and bridge projects in the Commonwealth,” stated Senator Michael Moore, Chair of Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets (D-Millbury). “Since I first became Chair of the Senate Bonding Committee, this has been one of my top priorities. Additionally, during this time of financial crisis it is critical to maintain oversight over the MBTA operations, while also ensuring that there is wider representation on the Board”

“Critical elements of this bill include authorizing an urgently needed $300 million for partnership with cities and towns on local road and bridge projects, and the expansion and renaming of the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board. That board was created through a bipartisan Senate budget amendment that I was pleased to offer in 2015, and has delivered powerful results in terms of savings, efficiencies and investments to improve the system,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). “Today’s action paves the way for that type of progress to continue, and for the board structure to become permanent.”

The bill includes the following components:

  • Increases the Chapter 90 bonding to $300 million, an increase of $80 million over the 2019 investment. This funding will support transportation infrastructure projects in cities and towns. 
  • Creates a professional, and diverse MBTA Board of Directors by requiring the Governor’s five appointments to include a member with experience in transportation operations and safety, a member with experience in public or private finance, a member with experience in transportation or urban planning, a member who is a representative of a labor organization, and a member who has municipal government experience in the service area constituting the authority. The Secretary of Transportation will serve as an ex-officio member, and one member will be appointed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Advisory Board. Additionally, at least two members of the MBTA Board of Directors must also serve on the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
  • Keeps the MBTA Board of Directors transparent and accountable by improving the public meeting process by requiring the Board to meet at least once per month and 20 times per calendar year. Members of the MBTA Board of Directors, except the Secretary of Transportation, will serve for four-year terms and have a stipend of $12,000 per year.
  • Provides greater autonomy and authority to the MBTA Board of Directors by empowering the Board to make decisions over hiring the MBTA General Manager, and delegate specific powers and responsibilities to the General Manager. Affirmative hiring votes will require at least five members if the Transportation Secretary is not in the voting majority. Voting on financial decisions by the MBTA Board of Directors on matters related to construction and acquisition that uses bonds or debt service payments must also have at least five members voting in the affirmative if the Transportation Secretary is not in the voting majority.

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