MassDOT pivotal in repair funding

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How federal transportation money gets spent when it lands in Massachusetts is up to Gov. Charlie Baker’s office and the state Department of Transportation.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation got $82.5 million in federal money for its 2016 operating budget, 7 percent of its total, according to the agency. 

That’s an increase from $78.3 million in 2015.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center reports that over the last 20 years, the peak amount expected was $112 million in 2013.

MassDOT spokeswoman Judith Riley said the state is committed to improving bridges and other infrastructure and will “continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to maximize opportunities.”

The state’s $2 billion 2017 capital plan dedicated $152 million to bridges.

For coming bridge improvements, Baker’s five-year capital transportation plan, which begins in 2018, recommends $290 million for the general maintenance, repair and replacement of state and municipally owned bridges.

A portion of $600 million received over five years in federal highway money is automatically held for the state’s Accelerated Bridge Program, which MassDOT says uses innovative techniques to fast-track construction and stay on budget. 

The agency says that since 2008, the program has reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges by 111.

Baker’s five-year plan recommends $199 million for this program.

Baker created the Small Bridge Program in August 2016, promising $50 million over five years for work on 10-foot to 20-foot spans because they don’t qualify for federal aid. 

The program will reimburse a town up to $500,000 per year to fix or replace such bridges.

And to try to solve its road and bridge problem, the state Senate in April said yes to a two-year Chapter 90 plan that would spend $200 million in each of those years. 

Under that plan, Berkshire County communities will get a total of about $12.2 million.

State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, previously told The Eagle that this isn’t enough – that more like $400 million to $500 million was recommended by the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Pignatelli cited sustained state health care cost increases and an increase in education funding as the reason road dollars are getting squeezed.


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