The Joint Transportation Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature held a public hearing in Springfield today (Wednesday) to hear concerns from local officials and other groups on how lawmakers should address pressing needs in the region, from increased funding of public transportation to bridge and road repairs. State Senator Thomas McGee of Lynn is the committee's co-Chair. He says while much debate on transit lately have been around dramatic fare increases and service cuts proposed for the MBTA, transit challenges are also being felt west of Boston. McGee calls transportation one of the top two issues facing the state, and says lawmakers recognize that more investment needs to be made in this region as well.
“If we can't solve our transportation problems, and we heard it today, we're going to continue to fall behind on our ability to grow our economy. Because if you can't get to work safely, if you're sitting in gridlock or you're stranded when you need to get to a doctor, the quality of life or the ability to have a job and provide for your family is totally impacted. Or the ability of a business to come here, and we heard it from Holyoke. If you want to make an investment in an area, it's a great area but you can't get there, you’re not going to see those investments”.
McGee says the state is spending at least $1 billion a year less than it should on getting roads, bridges and transit systems to good repair. And he says his committee will explore all revenue raising options, including increasing the gas tax and tolls, to pay for badly needed infrastructure projects. Mary MacInness, Administrator of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and one of those testifying at the hearing, says, like the T, her agency is considering fare increases to deal with a $1.8 million operating deficit for the next fiscal year. But unlike the T, she says there are no plans for cuts in service, adding that that has already been cut by more than 20-percent over the last decade.