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MA Underfunding Local Road Repairs by $362 Million

Thursday, December 20, 2012

 

The Commonwealth provides $200 million per year statewide for local road repairs, but a survey by the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) found that the actual cost of keeping roads in good repair is $562 million per year, and cities and towns are stuck trying to close the funding gap with local property tax dollars.

Data collected by the MMA from cities and towns across the state reveal that communities in Massachusetts would need to spend $562 million every year to rebuild and maintain local roads in a state of good repair, but communities spend far less because of inadequate resources. The result can be seen in potholes and crumbling roads across the state.

"There's a lot of work that's just not getting done," said Geoffrey Beckwith, the MMA's executive director, noting that eery year the backlog of work foregone by municipalities grows longer and longer.

State Funding Falls Short

Chapter 90, the state program to reimburse cities and towns for the cost of maintaining local roads, provides just $200 million per year, or just 36 percent of the actual need, resulting in a massive local funding gap of $362 million a year, according to the municipal association.

"There's no community really that can bridge that gap," Beckwith said. "There is no solution other than increasing the amount of funding."

Waltham City Councillor Robert Logan, the president of the MMA, said, “Funding for local roads across the state is dangerously low, and now is the time to invest. The more we delay, the more this will cost taxpayers in the long run.”

The MMA and local officials from across Massachusetts immediately called for a $100 million per year increase in the state-backed program that funds local road repairs, hailing the investment as essential for the state’s economic future and necessary to save taxpayers millions of dollars in more costly projects when roads fail. The MMA is also calling for a 5-year commitment of $300 million a year for Chapter 90, or a total $1.5 billion over 5 year period.

“Cities and towns are responsible for 30,000 miles of roads in Massachusetts, and Chapter 90 funding must be increased to prevent these roads from deteriorating and crumbling,” said Beckwith. “Economists and transportation experts all agree – cities and towns must have enough funds to maintain and rebuild local roads so that we can build a stronger economy, create jobs, ensure safe roadways, and enhance our quality of life.”

The state created the Chapter 90 program in 1973 to share a portion of gas tax revenue with communities to ensure adequate resources for local road construction needs. Almost 40 years later, however, the MMA says funding for the Chapter 90 program is far short of the actual need because construction costs have escalated sharply, in great part due to significant increases in the cost of fossil fuels, which drives up the price of construction materials such as asphalt and steel.

Increased Funding Would Save in the Long-Run

The MMA report states that investing more in Chapter 90 funding to improve the quality of local roads will actually save taxpayers millions of dollars a year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, once a local road is in a state of good repair, every $1 invested to keep it properly maintained will save $6 to $10 in avoided repair costs that would be needed to rebuild the road when it fails.

Under Proposition 2 1/2, cities and towns are unable to increase the amount of local funds used to supplement Chapter 90 unless they cut other services, such as public safety or education, or pass a tax override, increasing local reliance on what the MMA says is an already overburdened property tax.

"This is a top priority," said Beckwith. 

 

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