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Governor Charlie Baker Signs $11.4 Billion Infrastructure Law

courtesy of MBTA

Boston, Massachusetts – Governor Charlie Baker approved all of the bond authorizations in the nearly $11.4 billion bill he signed on Wednesday, including $400 million for immediate safety improvements at the T and $275 million as a down payment toward a passenger rail expansion in western Massachusetts, as well as a number of the supplemental sections included in the massive legislation.

The MBTA electrification and safety reporting requirements are the two most significant provisions of the infrastructure bond package that Governor Charlie Baker has returned to the Legislature with an amendment.

One of Baker’s modifications would rewrite a provision of the bill that required the T to develop short-, medium-, and long-term strategies for the transformation of the commuter rail system.

He deleted language from a few line items, vetoed four extraneous portions, and returned five proposed modifications, the majority of which concerned additional safeguards lawmakers attempted to impose around the MBTA in light of the agency’s turmoil.

Under Baker’s proposal, the MBTA would be required to deploy battery electric locomotive service and battery electrification rather than rolling out electric locomotive service or pursuing the electrification of multiple lines in the near future.

The original bill stipulated that after December 31, 2030, “no deal to purchase commuter rail trains” could include diesel locomotives.
This provision was eliminated by the amendment proposed by Baker.

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Two other amendments returned by Baker would modify MBTA mandates related to the continuing, interconnected safety and staffing concerns.

Legislators inserted language into the bond package mandating that the T submit a monthly report to the state inspector general detailing all recent “incidents, accidents, casualties, and risks” across the transportation system.
Additionally, the MBTA would need to make this information accessible to the public.

The Transportation Committee is investigating failings at the T, and the Federal Transit Administration is conducting a nearly unprecedented safety investigation.

An further Baker amendment would add eight members to a planned commission charged with examining and making recommendations on measures such as congestion pricing and public transportation fares.

AAA, Construction Industries of Massachusetts, American Council of Engineering Companies, Trucking Association of Massachusetts, Retailers Association of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Restaurant Association, and Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association would fill the newly created seats.

The bill aims to maximize the impact of a new federal infrastructure law, which will direct billions of dollars to Massachusetts in the coming years and make more available via competitive grants, as well as improve transportation resources throughout the state and accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.

It includes $2.8 billion for projects on the federal interstate and non-interstate highway system, $1.375 billion for transit and rail improvements, $1.27 billion for non-federally assisted road and bridge projects, and tens of millions of dollars more for multimodal transportation planning, regional transit network improvements, and funding for municipalities’ Complete Streets programs.

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