Transportation bill to fund $375M for local roads, bridges, other projects

  • Construction crews start to rebuild Lower Road in Deerfield that was cut in half by a small stream during a recent deluge, sweeping away a car. The pipe in the photo is a water supply. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/14/2023 1:31:04 PM

Area lawmakers are lauding Gov. Maura Healey for signing the Chapter 90 conference committee bill to authorize $375 million in reimbursements to cities and towns for bridge and road maintenance and funding for transportation-related infrastructure grants.

Communities are allowed to prioritize their Chapter 90 funding wherever they see the need in their local transportation networks, and this particular bill includes $200 million in one-year funding for the state Department of Transportation’s Chapter 90 program, which reimburses cities and towns for construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of municipal roads and bridges. The bill also includes $25 million to fund a new MassDOT program to reimburse cities and towns for maintenance of municipal roads and bridges, with a formula based on road mileage, population, and whether municipality is considered rural (a population below 10,000 and population density below 500 people per square mile).

“Overall I felt like both the Senate’s budget and then the overall budget is a terrific spending blueprint, and I do believe the Senate and the Healey-Driscoll administration are doing more than paying lip service to rural communities,” state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, said last week. “I believe they’ve taken meaningful steps to address the needs and opportunities in our communities.”

Comerford said there are “some back-of-the-envelope estimates” pertaining to where and how her constituency’s appropriation will be spent, but she is “focused on formula-driven funding.”

Part of the bill designates $25 million for MassDOT grants supporting municipalities and regional transit authorities transitioning to electric and zero-emission vehicles. Comerford said this is crucial to her constituents.

She also said that while she appreciates and voted for this bill there is still room for improvement.

“There’s more we can do,” she said.

State Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, explained the bill she voted for authorizes $175 million in programs that will support various transportation-related projects. She said this includes $25 million for a municipal small bridge program that provides two-phase funding to municipalities for the replacement, preservation, and rehabilitation of eligible bridges, the Complete Streets Program that provides technical assistance and construction funding to eligible municipalities, a bus transit infrastructure program, and grants to increase access to mass transit and commuter rail stations.

“From sidewalks to roadways and small bridges, this comprehensive bill provides critical funding to help meet the transportation needs of our communities. The inclusion of $25 million for rural roads will be especially impactful for communities in ... western Massachusetts,” Blais said. “The bill also includes important provisions to help the commonwealth meet its clean energy goals with funding for municipalities and regional transit authorities to purchase electric vehicles and grants to increase access to public transportation.”

Aaron Saunders, a Democrat representing the 7th Hampden District in the House, said the bill is made unique by the additional $25 million for rural communities across the state.

“With the flood and road damage over the past couple of months, it’s more important now than ever,” he said. “In western and central Mass. we really rely exclusively on our roads and bridges — we don’t have a subway system. State funds are important to smaller communities that don’t have large commercial tax bases. It’s almost exclusively on homeowners. These state dollars go to address local projects without having to rely on additional local property taxes.”

Saunders said it is a relief to have the bill passed by an overwhelmingly majority.

“It’s important to get these dollars to our communities as quickly as possible so road projects and bridge project can get going,” he said.

According to Saunders’ office, the funding headed to the 7th Hampden District will consist of $629,831 for Belchertown, $684,586 for Ludlow, $98,125 for Pelham, $248,218 for Petersham, $144,232 for New Salem, $132,419 for Shutesbury, and $186,503.17 for Wendell.

The state started providing aid to municipalities to assist with local road and bridge costs in 1973, as authorized through Massachusetts General Laws. This state aid became known as the Chapter 90 Program, which MassDOT administers under the powers of the department provided in its enabling legislation.

More information about Chapter 90 is available at

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-930-4120.


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