Berkshire County Lawmakers React to MA Governor’s Transportation Plan

Lawmakers in Berkshire County are saying Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s 13-billion dollar plan unveiled on Monday to update the state’s highways and public transit systems doesn’t adequately address the needs of small, rural communities.

Patrick’s plan proposes funding for numerous rail extension projects, including service from Springfield to Boston and from Pittsfield to New York City. But state Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, of Lenox, says Berkshire county’s needs are more basic than trains.

“I think we need to make a major investment in our bridges and our dams. The infrastructure of the Berkshires is deteriorating very quickly. And then I would get into public transit.”

Ahead of trains still — says Pignatelli — are buses. He says much of the regional transit authority’s vehicles travel along routes with just a few people on board. And, he says, they don’t get residents where they need to go. So the transit authority is phasing out some of the larger ones and investing in a much smaller fleet of vans that reach the county’s most remote corners. But Pignatelli says there isn’t enough money to complete that project. He says one of the reasons Berkshire county’s transit system trails behind the rest of the state is such a big chunk of the 30 million dollars the county generates in sales tax goes elsewhere.

“We get back less than two million dollars. Let us keep what we generate! If we could keep the dollars that are generated here in District one, we could solve our own problems and beyond.”

Pignatelli says he could support some of Patrick’s ideas for transportation infrastructure improvements  — including a gas tax hike. But only if the Governor’s administration agrees to distributing more of that money back to where it came from.