Towns Still Await Transpo funds


Lawmakers have been unable to reach informal agreement on an annual local road and bridge funding bill for more than two months, and now they'll ask a formal negotiating team to try and unjam the process.

The House and Senate on Thursday created a conference committee to iron out a final compromise between two mostly-similar $350 million versions that each branch approved in March.

Reps. William Straus of Mattapoisett, Brian Murray of Milford and Steve Howitt of Seekonk will represent the House in the talks opposite Sens. Brendan Crighton of Lynn, Paul Mark of Becket and Patrick O'Connor of Weymouth. Straus and Crighton regularly work together as co-chairs of the Transportation Committee.

Both versions of the legislation (H 3547 / S 2375) would allocate $200 million to the Chapter 90 program that reimburses cities and towns for road and bridge maintenance, plus authorize another $150 million for transportation-related infrastructure grants.

Most of the spending appeared to be in alignment across the two bills, though the House sought to direct $25 million toward an existing grant program for work on non-federally aided state-numbered routes and municipal roadways while the Senate proposed prioritizing $25 million for use by communities with "low population density."

Legislative leaders opted against following Gov. Maura Healey's recommendation to approve multiple years of Chapter 90 funding in a single bill, a step that municipal officials have long requested alongside warnings that $200 million per year is not keeping up with inflation.

It's not clear why lawmakers waited to take this step for more than two months after each branch approved the bill, which city and town leaders wanted to see resolved quickly so they would have a clearer financial outlook ahead of the warm weather roadwork season. - Chris Lisinski/SHNS

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