Early accord within reach on road funding, grants bill

By Chris Lisinski

State House News Service

Published: 03-29-2023 2:22 PM

BOSTON — While a new wrinkle has emerged, House and Senate Democrats appear to be heading for a relatively early session agreement on legislation allocating $200 million for local road and bridge work and another $150 million for transportation-related infrastructure grants.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee late Monday released a $350 million proposal that closely resembles the bill the House approved last week, while taking one detour in an attempt to make more money available for fixing rural roadways.

Like the House bill (H 3547), the Senate Ways and Means Committee bill (S 2375) authorizes a one-year, $200 million injection for the Chapter 90 program that reimburses cities and towns for road and bridge maintenance, plus another $150 million for other transportation-related infrastructure investments.

The second pot sends $25 million each to six programs, five of which appear effectively identical in both the House and Senate bills: a municipal bridge program, the Complete Streets program, a bus transit infrastructure program, mass transit and commuter rail station grants, and electric vehicle grants.

But the final $25 million allotment reflects a change. The House bill would add that funding into an existing grant program for work on “non-federally aided roadways, including, but not limited to, state numbered routes and municipal roadways,” while the Senate Ways and Means Committee version instead calls for that money to be prioritized for use by “municipalities low population density.”

Senators plan to take up the bill during a formal session on Thursday, and any adopted amendments would create new areas to reconcile with the House. In 2022, the House approved its Chapter 90 bill on March 30, and the Senate passed its version in June.

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Municipal leaders have pushed for an increase to the annual Chapter 90 allotment, arguing that inflation has whittled the purchasing power of the $200 million that has been approved almost every year for a decade-plus down to the equivalent of $68.6 million. They also want a multi-year authorization, which Gov. Maura Healey also favors.