Testimony to the MassDOT Board of Directors, November 15, 2023

  • Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments today. I would like to offer comments on the financial challenges ahead for the Massachusetts transportation system, and how the MassDOT Board can best approach this sensitive topic.
  • But first, I want to thank Governor Healey for the announcement that Sec. Tibbits-Nutt will be the official Secretary of MassDOT. Congratulations Secretary and we are grateful for your experience, perspective, and vison for the future in this role.
  • Also, I want to say thank you and the Board members, Administrator Gulliver, and especially new Project Manager Susan Harrington for a very successful task force meeting last night on the Allston I-90 Multimodal Project. We really appreciate the close collaboration and productive dialogue between MassDOT and advocates about specific details of the project. Last night was a major step forward and we hope this transformational project will continue to be a top priority for MassDOT.  
  • I am here today because once again, Massachusetts is facing a financial challenge with our transportation system. This challenge exists with both operating costs and capital infrastructure needs. In the past two years we have talked about the “Fiscal Cliff” for the MBTA, but the financial concerns are likely looming for the MassDOT Highway Division and other parts of the agency.
  • The MBTA is projected to face a significant operating budget deficit that may require difficult board action in only a few months.
  • The Commonwealth just released the “Recommendations of the Climate Chief” that now call for cost-estimates on how to decarbonize every sector of the economy. Unfortunately, many important transportation projects that reduce carbon emissions are either not included or not a priority in the 5-year capital plan.
  • Also, the transition to electric vehicles should help with emission goals, but it will result in a decline in gas tax revenue that currently supports the statewide road & bridge program.
  • Overall, MassDOT is facing transportation funding challenges that cannot be solved even if Massachusetts were to win every infrastructure grant available through the Biden Administration.
  • So I am asking MassDOT to begin a public process that examines the current and future transportation finance needs in Massachusetts. Addressing this challenge will require transparency on financial projections, no matter what the numbers could be.
  • This way, the public conversation can be productive, because we would all be using the same information on what things cost, how large deficits could be, and the possible solutions.
  • I am hoping the Board will schedule a Joint MassDOT – MBTA Board meeting in December that examines the MBTA State of Good Repair needs, the projections on the FY25 operating budget, the costs of the FTA mandates, as well as the examination on the future of the gas tax.
  • This conversation on the fiscal year 25 budget must begin in the next few weeks, because the Governor’s House 1 Budget Recommendations will be released in just two months. I hope the full MassDOT Board will put this topic on the agenda for your next meeting, so there is time to prepare for what is likely ahead.

Thank you for considering this request and I look forward to working with you on potential solutions.

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