The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed legislation to invest in municipal transportation projects and establish a new leadership board for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).
The bill, An Act financing improvements to municipal roads and bridges, authorizes $300 million in funding for municipal roads and bridges through bonding, an $80 million increase over the 2019 funding level.. The legislation also establishes a new seven-member MBTA Board of Directors to succeed the current oversight body, known as the Fiscal Management and Control Board. The MBTA Board of Directors will be responsible for governing and exercising corporate powers of the MBTA.
“Especially as our Commonwealth faces ongoing economic uncertainty and turmoil, it’s vital to make sure that our transportation infrastructure is safe, accessible, reliable, and accountable to the public” said Senator Jason Lewis. “By encouraging local investment in vital infrastructure and ensuring strong public oversight of the MBTA, this legislation will keep our transportation systems working for all who need them.”
The bill includes the following components:
- Increases the Chapter 90 bonding to $300 million, an increase of $80 million over the 2019 investment. This funding will support transportation infrastructure projects in cities and towns.
- Creates a professional, and diverse MBTA Board of Directors by requiring the Governor’s five appointments to include a member with experience in transportation operations and safety, a member with experience in public or private finance, a member with experience in transportation or urban planning, a member who is a representative of a labor organization, and a member who has municipal government experience in the service area constituting the authority. The Secretary of Transportation will serve as an ex-officio member, and one member will be appointed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Advisory Board. Additionally, at least two members of the MBTA Board of Directors must also serve on the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
- Keeps the MBTA Board of Directors transparent and accountable by improving the public meeting process by requiring the Board to meet at least once per month and 20 times per calendar year. Members of the MBTA Board of Directors, except the Secretary of Transportation, will serve for four-year terms and have a stipend of $12,000 per year.
- Provides greater autonomy and authority to the MBTA Board of Directors by empowering the Board to make decisions over hiring the MBTA General Manager, and delegate specific powers and responsibilities to the General Manager. Affirmative hiring votes will require at least five members if the Transportation Secretary is not in the voting majority. Voting on financial decisions by the MBTA Board of Directors on matters related to construction and acquisition that uses bonds or debt service payments must also have at least five members voting in the affirmative if the Transportation Secretary is not in the voting majority.
Legislators will now work to reconcile the bill with similar legislation passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives before it can be sent to Governor Baker to be signed into law.