MassDOT Issues Its 21st-Century Transportation Plan: Brother, Can You Spare $13 Billion?

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation today released The Way Forward:  A 21st-Century Transportation Plan.  The Plan summarizes steps that MassDOT has already taken to implement reforms, describes transportation needs over the next ten years, and discusses options for attaining the funding necessary to address the identified needs.

The needs include a number of proposals that have been mentioned previously, including South Coast Rail, train connection from Boston to Springfield, and rail service from Pittsfield to New York City.

The funding shortfall?  Only $13 billion.  The plan – presumably recognizing that Governor Patrick might have his own views – does not make a recommendation regarding how to fund everything.  It does, however, provide a menu of potential funding options, including:

  • A payroll tax of 0.16%
  • An increase in the gas tax – on its own, an increase of 30 cents would be necessary to raise $ 1 billion annually
  • An increase in the income tax from 5.25% to 5.66%
  • Green fees, essentially taxes based on vehicle carbon emissions
  • Vehicle miles traveled tax – A tax of 2.4 cents/mile would raise $1 billion annually

As an environmental lawyer, the gas tax increase and the last two options are obviously of the greatest interest, because they are state versions of carbon taxes, though limited to carbon emissions related to motor vehicle use.

The need for additional revenue could not be much clearer; we’ll see what the Governor and legislature are willing to do.

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