BOSTON – Governor Charlie Baker delivered remarks on a transportation bond bill seeking $18 billion in additional capital authorization to invest in building the Commonwealth’s transportation system, reducing congestion and establishing a tax credit to encourage telecommuting and remote working.
Governor Baker’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Good afternoon. Today we will provide a brief update on transportation here in the Commonwealth, and lay out important next steps embedded in our $18 billion bond bill that will build on the foundation we have established and accelerate efforts to make our transportation system safer, more reliable and more sustainable.
“We have enviable problems. Our economy is growing, our population is growing, and the economic activity that dominates our Commonwealth is constrained by the limits of our current system. This legislation, along with our Housing Choice and TNC legislation, and the recommendations in our forthcoming Congestion Report, will make it possible for us to create the transportation infrastructure we will need to continue to grow.
“The financing incorporated in this legislation is unprecedented and historic, and it will be applied in ways that strategically benefit the people, businesses, institutions and communities of this great state.
“It adds almost 100,000 seats to our public transportation system and will dramatically improve its reach and reliability. It doubles down on our highly effective large and small bridge initiatives. It fits with our efforts to enhance housing production, density and transit-oriented development, and provides a path forward to fund additional transit initiatives in resiliency and strategic expansion.
“We understand that our residents are frustrated by congested roads. And we understand that for MBTA and Commuter Rail riders, the system is only as good as the last time their trip was delayed. We are committed to making faster progress on these issues because they matter to us all.
“This legislation contains additional resources, new projects, and important policy changes that will dramatically improve how people and products get to where they need to go.
“The bill focuses on four major topics:
“Delivering more options and service enhancements faster at the MBTA so that long term, riders have more choices and a more reliable system;
“Renewing the Commonwealth’s Accelerated Bridge Program; so that we can continue to replace and improve old infrastructure;
“Extending a tax credit to employers to promote telecommuting and remote working so employers have an incentive to get more workers off the roads at peak rush hour;
“Making possible long term investments in clean transportation, resiliency & capital spending at the MBTA by authorizing up to half of the revenue generated by the Transportation and Climate Initiative to be invested in public transit and the T.
“With the support of the legislature and the leadership of our team, much has been done on all fronts in transportation over the past four years.
“As you know, twenty days after taking office in 2015, snowstorms effectively shut down MBTA for over a week. That kick started a challenging process to make up for decades of mismanagement and neglect at the T.
“The newly created Fiscal & Management Control Board changed the game at the T, and as a result, annual investments to repair, upgrade and modernize the system more than tripled over the next four years.
“We learned during the winter of 2015, the T did not have the plan or the equipment to deal with snow and it showed when the system ground to a halt.
“Today, the MBTA deploys a recently acquired $100 MM fleet of snow fighting & removal equipment, and one of the T’s machinists designed a new piece of equipment, by putting a John Deere skid-steer loader onto railcar wheels to create a snow-blowing vehicle to clear the train tracks.
“It was so effective the T hired a company to build eight more.
“The T’s runaway operating budget was brought under control, and the T tripled its own-source revenue.
“From 2010-2014, the T failed to spend half of the $4.5 billion it had available for infrastructure upgrades. Today, the MBTA is implementing a five-year $8.2 billion program that will significantly improve system dependability by replacing old tracks, signals, switches and power systems, upgrading stations, buying new vehicles and adding almost 100,000 seats to the system.
“The T also successfully re-negotiated labor agreements with its largest unions, producing long-term savings for taxpayers, while also fundamentally reforming overtime and other long-standing work rules to lower MBTA costs and improve productivity.
“For the first time, the T invested over one billion dollars in capital improvements this past year, and awarded over $1.254 billion in infrastructure construction and vehicle contracts – all aimed at making the system better for riders.
“While we know that there is still much more work to be done, we have come a long way to secure funding, put projects and big contracts into motion and set deadlines to complete construction projects. We have also added new options for riders and we are starting to see results.
“On the Red & Orange Lines:
“The entire Red and Orange Line fleet will be replaced and in service by 2023. This will create an additional 85,000 new seats added for riders daily on these busy lines, reduce crowding and avoid more delays;
“252 new Red Line cars will be tested over the next two years, and all will be on the tracks for commuters by the end of 2023;
“152 new Orange Line cars are scheduled to start entering service in the coming weeks and all will be on the tracks by 2022;
“The MBTA has replaced all the exposed third rail – over 24 miles – on the Red and Orange Lines. Poor third rail conditions are known to cause delays and broken trains, especially when it snows.
“Construction is underway on both lines for signal upgrades that will be completed by 2022. New signals will not fail for no apparent reason – as the very old ones do now – and will deliver better service and more capacity by increasing the number of trains that can move through the system every hour. In response to the June 11 derailment, we are reprioritizing work to address the critical JFK/Columbia Junction area earlier in the project.
“A new test track and maintenance facility are also being built, so the new trains can get into service faster and crews can better maintain the new equipment – cutting down on delays and breakdowns.
“Wollaston Station has also been completely rebuilt and will open in August, making all stations on the Red Line fully accessible
“On the Green Line:
“Perhaps the most significant success of the past four years was rescuing the Green Line Extension project into Somerville and Medford. This $2.3 billion system expansion was doomed to fail when we took office. It will now be up and operating by 2021.
“The T has made many other improvements over the past four years:
“The T put the first 9 of 24 new Green Line cars into service;
“Replacing & upgrading intersection crossings on the B, C and E lines to create safer pedestrian and vehicle crossings and reducing the number of speed restrictions, thereby increasing trip speed;
“Completing work on replacing and repairing 21,500 feet of track;
“And upgrading 6.5 miles of signals on the D Branch.
“While this work is rarely seen by riders, it is decades overdue and will enable the Green Line to move more people, more quickly to where they need to go.
“Over the next five years, the T will spend an additional $900 million on Green Line Transformation projects – upgrading tracks and signals, improving station accessibility, improving climate resiliency, installing critical safety systems, and beginning investment in the next generation of Green Line cars so that riders have more options, more convenience and better service.
“On the Blue Line:
“Infrastructure upgrades in the tunnel between Maverick and Aquarium stations will be underway soon. This trouble spot now floods more often – causing massive interruptions to everyone’s commute. We are also studying the next generation of digital signals so trains can make more trips more quickly
“And lastly, we are investing in the trains to cut down on mechanical breakdowns so riders can get better service.
“On The Commuter Rail:
“The T replaced hundreds of miles of track, installed 37 miles of new rail and 250,000 railroad ties – all of which enhanced on time performance and eliminated mandated slowdowns;
“Opened 3 new stations at Wachusett, Boston Landing & Blue Hill Avenue;
“Invested $20MM for double track along the Franklin Line, enhancing capacity;
“Hit major milestones for Positive Train Control, which was nowhere in 2015 & is now scheduled to be fully implemented by the end of 2020;
“Repaired and reconditioned dozens of locomotives, which significantly increased the number of locomotives available each and every day – thereby reducing cancelled trips, increasing total trips overall, and significantly improving on time performance. There are 10,000 more trips running on the commuter rail today than there were in 2014 – enhancing options and choices for riders and commuters.
“Up to 200 new, bi-level coaches will be purchased, which will significantly expand options for riders and reduce passenger crowding on the busiest lines, and new stations will continue to open, including a new station in Chelsea that will break ground later this year.
“Riders rarely ever see this work as it is done when there are no trains on the tracks but every rail tie, and every mile of extra double track helps avoid breakdowns and delays. This work is decades overdue but worth doing as we have seen significant improvement in service for riders as a result.
“System wide, there has been a steady increase in Commuter Rail ridership, and the Commuter Rail has exceeded the 10-year average for On Time Performance since 2016. 2019 OTP is at 90%.
“While the MBTA has devoted significant efforts to improve rail service for the over 1 MM people that rely on the system every day—they are equally focused on provided a reliable, efficient bus service.
“Our roads present a new set of challenges, including congestion and emissions that call for cleaner technology and smarter routes to move more people faster.
“The MBTA has replaced 1/3 of the entire bus fleet in the past few years—with 381 new buses that are less prone to breakdowns already in service.
“Additionally, 194 hybrid buses are in production and scheduled to be on the roads within the next year.
“Once they are in service, the T will have replaced ½ of the entire bus fleet.
“Separately, a pilot program for “Lo-No” battery electric buses is in the works, marking our first step toward electrifying the fleet.
“And in the next five years, the T will replace the Silver Line and Electric Trolleybus fleets, and purchase over 400 fuel efficient hybrid and battery electric buses.
“Launching early-morning and late-night bus service while also extending the Silver Line to Chelsea is giving more riders more choices and better service.
“Dedicated Bus Lanes have also been successfully launched in Boston, Everett, Arlington, Cambridge, and Watertown. These are cutting commute times for riders by as much as 25% on some routes.
“I’ve outlined a lot of important work that’s been done at the T to lay the foundation for improved service to customers. But we know we need to do even more and accelerate progress.
“So this legislation is called An Act Authorizing and Accelerating Transportation Investment because it will help the T modernize and improve service more rapidly, by both providing billions of dollars in new authorization and commonsense tools to speed up procurement and project delivery.
“This legislation includes authorization to invest nearly $6 billion to modernize the MBTA for the Better Bus Project, South Coast Rail, Green Line Extension and rail service improvements.
“The $18 billion package we are proposing today includes $2.7 billion for the MBTA to invest over the next 10 years beyond investments already funded in the five year plan. Currently, the MBTA is executing a five year, $8 billion upgrade plan.
“Today’s proposal will allow the T to plan for the future — explore service enhancements and system upgrades that go beyond the current five year capital plan.
“This will allow the MBTA to tackle the work in the Green Line Transformation plan, the Commuter Rail Vision plan as well as critical upgrades to the power systems that run the T, and prepare the system to deal with the effects of climate change – all essential components of building a better public transportation system worthy of the booming Massachusetts economy.
“While moving the T ahead is hugely important, the vast majority of travel in Massachusetts takes place on state and local roads.
“That is why since taking office, our administration has:
“Completed 220 bridge projects, improving the condition of 410 bridges in 120 cities and towns across the Commonwealth;
“And laid down thousands of miles of pavement on state and local roads, including 300 roadway projects improving pavement condition and safety in 205 communities across the state
“MassDOT has also completed complex projects to upgrade heavily used major pieces of infrastructure in several regions, such as the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge & Longfellow Bridge in Boston, Fore River Bridge connecting Quincy and Weymouth, Braga Bridge connecting Somerset to Fall River, Whittier Bridge connecting Newburyport and Amesbury and The Burns Bridge in Worcester.
“To build on this progress and speed up efforts to repair our roads and bridges so that they can support more reliable travel, this legislation authorizes $10 billion for MassDOT highway construction projects, pavement, and bridge repairs, including a new $1.25 billion Next Generation Bridge Financing Program that will focus on bridge modernization projects, and the bundling of smaller bridge projects. This matches the size and duration of the recently completed Accelerated Bridge Program.
“In addition, if this bill is enacted, MassDOT would have the tools and resources to advance its goals of having 70% of non-interstate pavement in good or excellent condition.
“The bill will also create, for the first time, a $100 million pavement maintenance program for state-numbered roads that are locally-owned.
“Nearly 70% of Massachusetts’ workers report driving to work alone in a vehicle, and our booming economy & growing population has combined to create an influx of traffic that frustrates commuters on state and local roadways. To help combat congestion, we are proposing a series of initiatives to establish:
“A $2,000 per-employee tax credit for employers to encourage telecommuting and remote working; allowing employees to save time and avoid peak commuting hours, and help get more vehicles off the roadway. Nationally, there has been an increase in the proportion of workers who work from home, but telecommuting is not as prevalent in Massachusetts. We still have a larger share of workers that ride transit rather than work from home, which is the opposite of the national trend. The Greater Boston area also ranks far below other areas with similar economies and demographics when it comes to remote working.
“A new $50 million Local Bottleneck Reduction Program to address local congestion hotspots. This would include smart signaling, improved traffic signage, new roadway striping, and minor configuration and access changes.
“And finally, expanding the use of designated bus lanes to move more people, faster. The T is ready to partner with every city in the system to put these in place but we cannot do it without local support. Again, these lanes can cut commutes for riders by as much as 25% and we are ready to do more.
“Our Small Bridge Repair and Complete Streets programs have put over $75MM into local road and intersection improvements, improving downtowns and enhancing traffic flow.
“And, last but not least: Chapter 90. We often say our Commonwealth is measured by the success of our cities and towns—and supporting reliable funding for this program is critical to supporting local transportation improvements.
“To date, we’ve awarded $1.14 billion through the Chapter 90 formula, including $100 million on our first day in office, to all 351 cities and towns.
“Lt. Governor Polito will address how today’s bill are furthering these investments for municipalities.
“One final point. Transportation options and commuting time play a critical role on where people choose to live work and raise a family.
“Beyond the footprint of our Commonwealth’s transportation network, our administration has prioritized Transit-Oriented Development projects so people can live closer to public transportation and not have to get in a car as often. This focus on development also compliments our efforts to expand economic development opportunities outside the 128 corridor to create more job opportunities across the region.
“Over the past 5 years we have completed 8 Transit-Oriented-Development projects which have built 1,425 housing units, 481 of which are affordable units, along with over 660,000 feet of commercial space.
“Seventeen more projects are currently under construction or in the permitting/design phase. Upon completion, we’ll produce 2,200 housing units, including 650 affordable units, and almost 3 million feet of commercial space to create jobs and revitalize downtowns.
“We also want to make the actual process of planning and building transit related projects easier and faster. As part of today’s bond bill, I am asking the Legislature to work with us to cut the bureaucratic red tape that slows down big projects and wildly overcomplicates smaller projects.
“This bill would accelerate the pace of construction projects, cut down on the disruption construction brings and deliver the finished product to drivers and riders faster.
“For example, the bill would enable the MBTA to partner with developers willing to build transit infrastructure to expedite the distribution of public benefits, and use well-established procurement methods such as Job Order contracting for smaller projects.
“We’re also going to explore additional initiatives outside of this bill to actively manage congestion to reduce variability and unpredictability of travel times.
“In Massachusetts, the transportation sector accounts for more than 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Our administration has a responsibility to consider climate change as we pursue new construction and investments into public transit to ensure these spending decisions help us transition to the clean transportation system of the future while designing for the challenges ahead like increased storms, heat and flooding.
“Our work to reduce emissions and invest in clean technology to protect the environment will continue to be critical in guiding investments and planning.
“To assist in this effort, today we are introducing a new authorization to provide additional funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.
“This bill will provide the MBTA with an innovative, ongoing source of future support by dedicating up to half of the revenue generated by the Transportation and Climate Initiative – which is currently under development with other Northeast states – to public transit.
“These funds will be used to support investments that boost transit ridership and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.
“The implementation of this initiative will lead to additional future revenues for investments in transportation infrastructure beyond those included in the bill.
“Secretary Theoharides will have more to add on this shortly.
“In closing, if the Legislature enacts something that resembles this piece of legislation by the end of this session, Massachusetts will have the biggest arsenal of tools and capabilities it has ever had to make our transportation network safer, cleaner, and better able to service the needs and expectations of our residents and our communities.
“We look forward to working with our colleagues in the legislature and the community generally to get this enacted in this session. Thank you.”