Over the past few months (and year for that matter), the news coming out of Beacon Hill in regard to the state’s transportation infrastructure has been a jumble. To the casual listener, tolls were being removed; then they were being kept and hiked; then removed again. There has been talk about increasing gas taxes, about selling service plazas, about adding MBTA trains, extending MBTA service, killing the MTA, giving MassPort more control, giving them less control…
Now, comes a new overarching plan from State Senate leaders to create a Pangea of an agency called “MassTrans.” The proposed group would be a combination of MBTA, the Turnpike Authority, and the Massachusetts Highway Department; it would also take over the Tobin Bridge from MassPort and oversee all DCR roads and bridges.
The proposal would supposedly save the state over $6 billion over the next 20 years – a significant amount of money, but only a portion of the estimated $15 billion – $19 billion needed over that same time to maintain existing infrastructure.
What does the proposal mean for Worcester and Central Mass residents? For the immediate future, it means drivers shouldn’t expect any major changes in their daily tolls or gas taxes although many observers say an increase in revenue is a necessity; a final vote for toll hikes is scheduled for next week.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the plan contrasts with another reorganization plan being put forth by Governor Deval Patrick in the next few weeks to combat growing debt across multiple state transportation organizations.