TELL US: How Should We Pay for Our Roads, Highways & the MBTA?

Gov. Deval Patrick plans to ask lawmakers to raises taxes to make up for the shortfall in Massachusetts' transportation system. What options should they consider — and what is off the table?

Would you be willing to pay more at the pump, have a tracking system on your car that taxes you by the mile, or see tolls on state highways? Those are just some of the possibilities looming as Massachusetts looks to erase the state's transportation system's deficit.

The Boston Globe reported that Gov. Deval Patrick will ask lawmakers to raise taxes in order to pay for a transportation system—from the MBTA to roads and bridges—that continues to operate in the red. The administration will present a specific proposal by Jan. 7.

One option is raising the gas tax, a route Patrick sought in 2009 only to be rebuffed by the legislature. Patrick sought a 19-cent hike, while business groups endorsed a 25-cent increase. Ultimately, the state Senate voted down two budget amendments, one which would've increase the tax by 19 cents as requested by Patrick and one that would have increased it by a more modest 12 cents.

Massachusetts' gas tax of 21 cents a gallon, unchanged since 1991 except for a 2.5 cent increase imposed to clean up underground contaminants, according to the Globe, ranks 29th in the nation, according to the non-partisan tax research group, The Tax Foundation.

Another option, according to the Globe, is taxing miles driven, which could require tracking devices installed on all cars registered in the state.

WBZ pundit Jon Keller said that the state should "try to spread the pain around" by putting open-road (a.k.a. high-speed) tolling on interstate highways. In a live chat on Patch in September, Patrick asked a reader whether he'd support high-speed tolls in response to a question about toll fairness.

Keller also said the state could require license fees for bicyclists, whom he said have "been the beneficiaries of a lot of recent public spending."

Other options, according to the Globe, include using future casino revenue and transferring MBTA debt to the state's books.

“At this point, everything remains on the table,” state Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey told the Globe.

Would you support a higher gas tax, high-speed tolls, a tax-by-mile program or licenses for bicyclists? Tell us in the comments which plans you want lawmakers to consider to make up the transportation system's deficit — and which options you consider off the table.

Pat Brown November 28, 2012 at 04:54 AM
Striping, I'll grant, can come from Chapter 90 (state) money--although even here the source is not the local property tax. Reworking the BU bridge with cycle accommodations, or the $5.9 million Mass Ave reconstruction in east Arlington with the cycle accommodations, or even the $750,000 to provide the accommodations connecting the Minuteman Bikeway across Arlington Center definitely come from federal funds. Right now a bicycle is a legal vehicle on any road in the Commonwealth except for limited access divided highways. In regard to your proposal to allow two way bike travel on one-way streets, I'm not sure I want more people on bikes if the message is, "Hey, you can ride the wrong way down a one-way street." It's hard enough to get cyclists to remember that the rules of the road apply to them as it is--and the ubiquitous although understandable lack of enforcement (why even try to ticket cyclists, since they aren't licensed or necessarily carrying ID?) only makes it worse.
dlanod November 28, 2012 at 12:35 PM
The answer is obvious, put a toll booth up at 93, 95 in NH and RI. Make them pay for our roadwork, they surely abuse it the way they drive, tailgaiting/speeding.
David Chase November 28, 2012 at 12:47 PM
The goal of changing the law for bicycles is to make it not "wrong way". And in general, think about what the current one-way laws (on residential streets) are for. It is not about "order" and testing people to see how well they follow rules. It's intended to keep cut-through car traffic out of neighborhoods, because cars are noisy, raise dust, and are slightly dangerous. Bicycles are none of these, and making it legal for them to cut-through (not "sending a message that the law does not apply" -- that's what we have now, if they do it and get no ticket, which is the usual case) you make not-driving more attractive, thin the traffic jams and reduce competition for parking in places like Cambridge, and make it clear that the law is intended to be rational, and not just a bunch of silly rules. Also, also, also, the gratuitous slam at "hard enough to get cyclists to remember that the rules of the road apply to them" -- you understand that the overwhelming majority of adult cyclists are also licensed drivers, right? And they are usually carrying ID. And number two, if you actually look at how people drive, the overwhelming majority of them are usually breaking traffic laws. It's not at all unique to cyclists. Speeding on residential streets is especially dangerous; even a 1mph increase in the 20-30mph range carries a big increase in pedestrian (and cyclist) risk. 26 in a 25 zone is speeding.
David Chase November 28, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Those federally subsidized projects, is it $5.9mil for the whole Mass Ave reconstruction, or is that just the bike lanes? You should not "charge" cyclists with the cost of repaving lanes for cars, parking, or installing pedestrian accommodations. And how many miles of limited-access-no-bikes-no-peds-no-horses interstate does that $750,000 buy? (rural interstate, $1mil/mile. Big Dig, $1BIL/mile) It's important to keep things in proportion.
Nashoba Liberty January 18, 2013 at 06:34 PM
The best way to guarantee yourself ridiculous increases in taxes and fees is to vote in a Democrat administration for a second term. Don't forget to layer on top the extra income tax that Coupe Deval wants to extort from us.


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