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August 7, 2023

Healey signs $375M transportation bill

Photo | Courtesy of State House News Service Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey

The infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars into roads and bridges throughout the commonwealth will spur the creation of "good jobs" and economic growth, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said during an infrastructure funding bill signing ceremony Friday.

Driscoll, the former mayor of Salem, called the Chapter 90 program funded by the legislation the "bread and butter" that keeps cities and towns safe and allows them to make investments that "really matter." The bill (H 4013) that Gov. Maura Healey signed during the event at Lowell City Hall includes a one-year injection of $200 million for the Chapter 90 program plus $175 million in transportation-related grants.

"I think about the things that kept me up at night when I was a mayor, and it was safety and making sure we had the resources to make investments, particularly in our older communities," Driscoll said. "We're trying to build strong pipelines in our community for housing, support the sorts of developments that we know are necessary, and infrastructure is at the heart of it all. So these resources, when you combine them with hardworking municipal officials, are going to go a long way to demonstrating the type of communities we all want to build -- places that are safer, that have infrastructure that's meeting the demands of a growing economy."

Lowell City Manager Thomas Golden, a former state representative, said the Chapter 90 program is "vitally important" as officials work on fixing potholes and redeveloping streets and bridges.

Healey said the bill she signed Friday would unlock $1.87 million in Chapter 90 funding for Lowell, which recently won MassDOT approval for $1.6 million to replace part of the Beaver Street Bridge structure. The bridge has been closed to cars and trucks since 2019.

The Chapter 90 bill had languished in closed-door negotiations for weeks, underscoring the deepening tension between the House and Senate this legislative session.

The crux of the disagreement between the branches, which had passed nearly identical bills, revolved around where to spend certain grant money. Ultimately, conference committee negotiators raised the amount of transportation-related grants from $150 million to $175 million, including both $25 million programs that had differed in the House and Senate versions.

Healey -- who was joined at the ceremony by city and state elected officials, as well Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca, Undersecretary of Transportation Monica Tibbits-Nutt, and Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver -- touted the $25 million included in the bill for a new mileage-based road repair program. The money will help towns that have "longer roads and fewer resources to maintain them," Healey said.

"That's the regional equity our administration is committed to advancing," Healey said. "We're committed to building on these programs and others to grow our state and local partnerships with all of our communities as we move forward."

Healey thanked administration officials who will now help to disburse Chapter 90 funding, including those from the Executive Office of Administration and Finance. Healey said Secretary Matt Gorzkowicz was at the State House Friday working on the fiscal 2024 budget, which the governor must take action on by next Thursday.

With the Chapter 90 bill finalized, the Massachusetts Municipal Association has said Beacon Hill lawmakers, many of whom have departed for vacations during a traditional August break from major business, will also need to take action on a bond terms bill "in the coming weeks."

"Approval of the Chapter 90 and bond terms legislation is required before the Massachusetts Department of Transportation can program the funding for municipal use," an MMA analysis stated.

Healey held a second ceremonial bill-signing for the Chapter 90 program at the Nicholas J. Costello Transportation Center in Amesbury later Friday morning.

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