Forty-one other states allow cities and towns to impose their own fees or surtaxes to fund transportation projects, and Massachusetts should join that vast majority by supporting two components in House-Senate transportation bond bill negotiations, municipal leaders said Wednesday.
In a letter to the six conference committee members charged with quickly hashing out a final bill, coalitions representing dozens of cities and towns urged the panel to include both the House-approved value capture proposal and the Senate-approved regional ballot initiatives authorization in the final bill.
"Local and regional transportation investments will play an important role to foster economic revitalization and recovery," chairs of the Metro Mayors Coalition, the North Shore Coalition and the Commuter Rail Communities Coalition wrote. "Regional ballot initiatives and value capture tools give cities and towns the opportunity to control their own transportation destiny. These investments will help create jobs and promote greater access to Main Streets for employees and consumers alike."
The conference committee is negotiating bills authorizing $17 billion to $18 billion in borrowing and numerous transportation policy changes.
Municipal leaders stressed that value capture and regional ballot initiatives together are not enough to generate enough money for "transformative transportation improvements," but they called the two options a critical step to "act as a down payment" on more impactful local projects.
Under the value capture model, contributions from real estate development projects near highways or public transportation would help pay for that transportation infrastructure.
Four municipal leaders signed the letter: Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone on behalf of the Metro Mayors Coalition, Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll on behalf of the North Shore Coalition, and both Lynn Mayor Thomas McGee and Bedford Town Manager Sarah Stanton for the Commuter Rail Communities Coalition.
The House passed a bill in March authorizing more than half a billion dollars per year in tax and fee hikes for transportation purposes, but the Senate declined to tackle that proposal amid economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.