Governor Baker unveils $9.7 billion transportation bill with benefits for infrastructure and switch to electric vehicles | News

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A statewide shift toward electric vehicle adoption, efforts to replace the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s entire Green Line cart fleet, and plans to make infrastructure more resilient to Climate change impacts would all get a boost under the $9.7 billion bond bill. Govt. Charlie Baker clarified Thursday.

Nearly two months after first hinting at his intention to introduce a new carriage bond bill, Baker offered a first look at a proposal that the MBTA chief says will play a ” catalytic role” to maximize money for Massachusetts under new federal infrastructure. law.

Once introduced, the legislation will spark a debate over years of investment in the state’s pothole-strewn roads and bridges, aging public transit and infrastructure ill-equipped to withstand the weight of change. climatic.

It’s also a proposal likely to gain lawmakers’ approval in the coming months, though House and Senate Democrats are likely to tailor priorities to their preferences and could bump the bill’s results. law.

“It’s a bill that talks about infrastructure, but it’s clearly about climate, mobility, our communities, our economy. It ties everything together,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, who joined Baker in Worcester to unveil the outline of the bill. “Now we have an opportunity with these funds to really put them to work in an accelerated way.”

Baker’s office released a summary breaking down some of the highlights of the bill — $2.8 billion of which comes from the formula funding increase in the new federal infrastructure law — but did not update. copy of the legislation available within hours of his press conference.

The bill — Baker dubbed it the Massachusetts Transportation and Climate Resources Act, or MassTRAC Bill — seeks $5.4 billion in highway money, $2.2 billion for the MBTA, $591 million for regional transportation authorities and $1.4 billion to improve environmental infrastructure, according to Boulanger.

Massachusetts is on track to receive about $9.5 billion over the next five years under the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed in November, representing a combination of reauthorized and newly approved money. To use the money, Baker said, lawmakers must pre-approve the range of spending on transportation and infrastructure projects, including which parts will be covered by federal money.

“Criticism” to pass the bill

“The way it works is the state authorizes, the state advances, the state spends, and the feds reimburses,” Baker said. “It is essential for us to pass this legislation as quickly as possible, which will then allow us to move forward aggressively in putting this series of $9.7 billion projects to work across Massachusetts. over the next five years.”

Baker said he sees the bill as containing two large buckets: $6.2 billion representing a “combination of state and federal money” that will flow through existing formula programs over the next five years, and $3.5 billion to increase the state’s chances of winning additional federal funds. dollars available through grant programs.

Discretionary and competitive grants offer a “significant amount of resources,” Baker said. But, to tap into the pot of additional federal resources, states must commit their own money.

In the eyes of the administration, the return on this effort could be substantial: Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler said Massachusetts could receive $2 billion to $3 billion in discretionary grants over the next five years through the federal program. .

For months, transportation advocates have pushed the Baker administration and legislature to make subsidy mining a top priority, warning that the infrastructure law could have a moderate impact if the Bay State takes behind other states.

Rick Dimino, president and CEO of the A Better City group of companies, said he’s optimistic Baker’s legislation puts Massachusetts on a solid footing to make the most of the moment, calling it “exactly what the Commonwealth needs to position itself to move forward with a robust and modernized transport system.

Environmental infrastructure

With the transportation sector accounting for about 42 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, environmental infrastructure is at the center of the legislation and the target of much of the proposed money.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said the investments outlined in the bill “will help us reduce carbon emissions in all areas of our transportation system.” This includes $200 million to match federal funds for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and electric school buses.

Theoharides referred to noise emanating from the Interstate 290 bridge over East Central Street in Worcester, which was the backdrop for Thursday’s announcement and whose replacement project would be partly funded by legislation.

“In the next 10 years, we can be here standing by this bridge and being able to hear each other,” Theoharides said. “Something we don’t talk about with electric vehicles — we talk about the fact that they reduce pollution, they dramatically reduce carbon emissions, they’re also virtually silent. I bet in 10 years, if we meet here, we could hear each other talk.

“These vehicles are clean, they’re quiet, they don’t pollute communities, and we have several ways to really increase the availability of these vehicles and the systems that support them through this bill,” he said. -she adds.

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