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Mullan-2011

Posted by Jeff Mullan, MassDOT Secretary & Chief Executive Officer

This is my fourth and last message on the central points I have made regarding this moment in transportation reform.  I previously wrote that reform was permanent, that we need to prepare for less Federal investment, and that, as we consider our future system, we need to account for and accommodate all transportation modes.  The final point is as elementary as the first three: reform alone is not enough to fix today’s system and build tomorrow’s.

I write and speak often that I am pleased with the progress we have made since MassDOT was created.  You should be too.  We have made good progress in finding the savings and efficiencies we need to make our dollars go further. The savings come from many sources, but include significant concessions many of you have made in health care and other benefits, savings from now being able to refinance our debt, and dramatic reductions in payroll expenses due to consolidations.  That helps.

So does the $260 million in additional annual revenue the legislature first authorized in 2009, which was targeted as follows: $100 million to service debt on the Metropolitan Highway System; $160 million for the MBTA; and the remaining $15 million for our regional transit authorities.  That money has made a difference.

To no one’s surprise, the Transportation Finance Commission told us in 2007 that we had underinvested in our system for many years.  They estimated that the difference between what we were spending and what we needed to spend to maintain a state of good repair over the next twenty years was nearly $20 billion.  They also said that reform alone would not be enough to close the gap.

We are making steady progress toward bringing our system into a state of good repair as we have more than doubled highway investment in the last few years and are increasing our investment at the T and on city and town infrastructure as well.  We are also reducing expenses, which leaves more funds available for construction and maintenance.  Nevertheless, we see signs of disinvestment everywhere – signs that confirm that, despite the progress, we will not be able to save enough money to completely eliminate the gap. 

In recent weeks, we have begun to discuss these issues with civic leaders.  This summer, we will have more discussions about the kind of system we need and the kind of system we can afford.  Right now, we cannot afford the system that we need.  That’s why we must keep all the options on the table as we begin the discussion.

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