A component of FY2012 local aid is fast approaching final consensus. Chapter 90 funding for the coming fiscal year is likely to be increased by 29%, which will provide a modest additional amount for each of my communities. The likely amounts (subject to final adjustments) are as follows:
The state provides funding to cities and towns to support road construction through Chapter 90. Chapter 90 has recently been funded by bond bills.
Today, the House Committee on Bonding and Capital Expenditures (on which I sit) heard testimony on giving the Governor authority to borrow an additional $250 million in to support Chapter 90 funding in FY12. We are currently at the tail end of a previous three-year authorization which is substantially exhausted. There is a good chance that the legislature will put the authorization on the Governor’s desk this week in time for notice to go out April 1. This timing will support the construction planning process for the coming season.
The administration has stated its clear intention to use $200 million of the $250 million bonding authorization in the coming fiscal year. The administration does not have to issue bonds that the legislature has authorized. The administration limits bond issuance in accordance with its capital plan which is, in turn, based on a debt affordability policy. Our committee intends additional review of that policy over the coming months, but right now, there seems to be consensus that it is responsible.
There has been some question as to how much we will authorize. Regardless of whether we authorize $250 million — the amount requested by the Transportation Committee and approved by our Committee, $50 million above what the Governor asked — the administration has made clear that it will issue only $200 million. This represents a 29% increase above the $155 million that has been authorized in each of the past few fiscal years. The estimated numbers in the table above are based on a $200 million allocation.
Chapter 90 funds are distributed in accordance with a formula weighted 58% on road miles, 21% on employment and 21% on population. Subject to some variations due to new population and employment numbers, the Governor’s January estimates, as distributed by the MMA and shown in the table above, should be pretty close to correct.
One of the issues in the hearing was whether the bill should earmark a portion of the funds for “Complete Streets” work. While many of us on the committee are passionate about pedestrian and cyclist safety, it did not seem practical to include this earmark in the bond bill — there has been no thought as to how allocate funds particularly for those purposes. It was agreed that the committee would actively consider how to better support Complete Streets in a future bill. Nothing prohibits communities from using the funds for those purposes in the current bill — the question was only whether to mandate some portion of the funds to be used in that way.
I think I’m ok with no earmark on “Complete Streets”, but it would be nice to have a plan. I’m a little unsure which way of spending money would yield the largest bang for the buck, where for me, “bang” is getting more people out of cars (whether they go with bikes, feet, or transit, I’m not sure I care).
So for example, one thing you could target would be what I’ll call biking barriers — anyplace that cause people to not bike form A to B, because in the middle, there is this nasty scary barrier to biking. For example, the Middlesex Turnpike, out around 128. Bleah! But that’s more of a long-haul cyclist problem. I’d like this, but few people ride that stretch of road. Would more show up, if it were less awful? Hard to tell.
Or another example, might be, getting people onto bikes for particular destinations. So, be sure that people could bike to town centers from anywhere within a mile or two, or be sure that people can bike to T stations, if they live within a mile or two. Outside of that radius, who knows what barriers there are, but this would take the approach of getting people onto bikes for tractable trips, and would help reduce parking contention.
What was on the table was a requirement that $15 million out of the total $250 million be spent on safe streets. There was no thought in the proposal about how to allocate or award that money. The only mechanism available would have been to spread it across 350 communities by formula, it would have been an unusably small amount in many communities. Development of any other mechanism wouldn’t be feasible for this construction season.
In that case, I feel even better about waiting. Misting money on numerous dinky projects makes nobody happy. Thinking about what I wrote above, and the difficulty of picking winners, would someone consider, in the future, a small, diverse set of targeted projects? E.g., a couple to remove barriers (takes time to identify those, of course), a couple of improve access to a town center, and a couple to improve access to a train station. No doubt there is something else I’ve missed. And maybe, some diversity in the diversity — for one train station, you might concentrate on signs to help people find it, and information about available parking, for others, you might try to reserve actual lanes on feeder roads.
By-the-way, that lack of a tunnel under the tracks at Alexander Avenue, that’s a barrier :-).
And then we see what works (or not).
That’s the conversation we need to have — create a grant program around the idea? If so, who controls it? What are the grant criteria? . . .
Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington is a nasty, scary barrier to DRIVING! The countless traffic lights and driveways are a horror show! All the 75 year old road capacities and designs are overwhelmed. Add bike and pedestrian paths while widening them!
Agreed. That problem will need to be addressed as a major planning project. This Chapter 90 money will mostly be for easier road maintenance.
Speaking of the Middlesex Turnpike, did you know that there are NO CROSSWALKS, from the last light in Lexington (North Street) to the Terrace Hall intersection (2.3 miles, says Google Maps). I realized this one day when my left turn was especially unpleasant, and I thought I would just morph into a ped, but whoopsie, no win there, either.
The whole family discovered it on our first bike trip to the mall.. still remembering it after 10 years. The first place we saw only reachable by car or parachute..:-) One or two pedestrians overpass like those on storrow drive would connect the mall food court to B&N and AMC theaters and then to Adams street/North street. A total different experience for biking teenagers… can’t that be proposed as an investment to the business community around the mall?
I’m sure it could. It’s an issue though for the local folks up there to handle. I’d rather see people shop in Belmont, Arlington or Cambridge, the communities that I represent. OK, I admit it . . . we do get up there sometimes.
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