EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

December 20, 2012

Citing 'crumbling' roads, municipal group seeks big state aid hike

BOSTON — There is a $362 million funding gap between what Massachusetts cities and towns require to maintain roads in a “state of good repair” and the amount of state funding currently available for local roadways, according to Massachusetts Municipal Association survey results released yesterday.

“The MMA’s survey results reveal that cities and towns in Massachusetts 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 report states. “The result can be seen in potholes and crumbling roads across the state.”

State funding for local roads, known as Chapter 90, is currently at $200 million per year. The MMA, which represents cities and towns, is asking for a 50 percent funding increase to begin more aggressively addressing the gap and to bring the annual allocation up to $300 million per year for the next five years.

In January, the Patrick administration and the Legislature are planning to discuss a new transportation financing proposal, a discussion that was speeded along by a funding crisis at the MBTA last year that was solved with fare hikes and a state bailout. Chapter 90 strategies will likely figure into the discussion.

With spending on track to outpace revenues, Gov. Deval Patrick this month outlined a $540 million budget-balancing plan featuring across-the-board cuts and drawing heavily from the state’s reserves. Economic experts say slow growth means tax revenue growth will only slightly improve next year.

Every year, the Legislature allocates funding to municipalities for local roads projects, and the $200 million disbursed to cities and towns was a record high last year. This year the state kept the same funding level.

For the past two years, the Legislature has delayed the final approval of Chapter 90 funds, leading to some frustration from local officials who often can’t afford to undertake road projects without the assurance that the state will foot the bill.

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