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Old 11-21-2012, 12:32 PM   #1
AmericanFolkLegend
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The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

MBTA, highway system face vast budget deficits
Budget analysis examines only operational costs

By Eric Moskowitz Globe Staff November 20, 2012

Just months after the MBTA raised fares, the T faces a $130 million deficit for the next budget year, according to an analysis released Monday by a regional think tank.

But that daunting financial gap is eclipsed by a $240 million shortfall to operate the highway system, the study concluded.

The budget analysis, conducted by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, does not include money to address a vast and growing backlog of repair and replacement needs for everything from rail cars to bridge abutments or to improve transportation across the Commonwealth. The analysis merely reflects the cost of running the system as is and suggests that tax increases, fare hikes, or cuts could be on the horizon.

The T figure, if a shock to commuters* still adjusting to the July fare increase, was foreshadowed by officials last spring who acknowledged that the higher prices, coupled with cuts and emergency funding, amounted to a one-time fix.

The highway deficit has not been tallied in this fashion this way before *because its budget is balanced by borrowing, which pushes the cost of present-day mowing, striping, and snowplowing far into the future. “The Massachusetts Department of Transportation can’t actually operate on the operating budget that it has or that it’s been given by the Commonwealth for many, many years, so it does something that anyone who knows business knows is a terrible practice,” said *Stephanie *Pollack, associate *director of the center. “It [borrows] to pay for things that should be in its operating budget.”

The center released the figures as part of an extensive analysis attempting to establish statistical benchmarks to gauge the financial state of the transportation system and to grade it on accessibility, infrastructure health, and regional equity, both annually and against peer states. The center released preliminary findings Monday at a sustainability conference for municipal officials, academics, and environmental and land-use planners and activists.

The numbers were released as Governor Deval Patrick’s administration tallies its own figures on the gap between what the state currently spends and how much it could or should spend to maintain a robust, healthy transportation network, along with how much could be raised by taxes or fees. That January report, requested by lawmakers, is likely to precede a Patrick budget that could call for new revenues, as well as efficiencies, to address the long-simmering transportation funding crisis.

“It is clear to us that the system we have today we cannot afford and the system that the public wants we definitely can’t afford,” Richard A. Davey, the state’s secretary of transportation, said in an e-mailed statement Monday. “In the coming weeks and months, we will conclude a comprehensive review of our transportation system and determine what resources we need to set us on a path *toward a high quality, sustainable transportation future.”

Davey and his team are two-thirds through a 19-stop tour across the state to discuss large aspirations and local complaints about transportation and to lay groundwork for the financial plan that will be delivered in 2013.

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, president of the state association for metropolitan mayors, lobbied Monday’s Sustainable Communities conference for help in encouraging lawmakers to put transportation on sound financial footing. He said they will succeed by framing it not as a debate about taxes but about necessary invest*ment in job creation, commerce, environment, and quality of life.

“For far too long, the opponents of transportation investment have sought to portray our transportation system as some alien, archaic, inefficient burden that we all carry,” he said. “They don’t explain how our economy will succeed without it; they just say it’s broken and not worth any future *investment.”

The T and the highway system have structural deficits, meaning that each struggles to balance its budget annually without substantial cuts or new tolls, fares, or taxes. An array of expenses — electricity, fuel, asphalt, employee health insurance, federally mandated transportation for the disabled — have risen much faster than *inflation and the state’s transportation revenues over the past decade.

The T is legally bound to balance its budget, a requirement that has brought debate over cuts and fare hikes to the fore. The highway system does not face such a mandate, so it has more quietly borrowed while pushing principal and interest payments on this year’s pothole repairs into the future.

“We felt it was time to kind of call it as we see it and say, ‘There is an operating deficit that is actually larger than the MBTA operating deficit,’ and until we acknowledge that, we’re not going to solve it,” *Pollack said.
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Old 11-21-2012, 01:25 PM   #2
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy couldn't release this till after the election! Don't forget the governor made it clear he wasn't going to talk about gas tax till after the election. Seems like the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy is part of the Deval Partrick administration. Notice the is no mention of reform.
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:32 PM   #3
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

This is what happens when your funding gets cut by 40%+++ in real terms. The T hasn't had its revenue slashed as badly because the sales tax has at least kept pace with inflation (IIRC) but it's also fallen way below projections and below other tax revenue, which is the proper benchmark for comparison. I had some graphs somewhere...
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:55 PM   #4
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

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Old 11-21-2012, 05:03 PM   #5
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

Why raise the gas tax when we can continue to borrow against future funding?
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Old 11-21-2012, 05:08 PM   #6
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

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Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy couldn't release this till after the election! Don't forget the governor made it clear he wasn't going to talk about gas tax till after the election. Seems like the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy is part of the Deval Partrick administration. Notice the is no mention of reform.
omg i kno rite? i heard hes like a muslin 2 just like abama
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Old 11-21-2012, 06:18 PM   #7
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

I take it that you agree with me.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:14 PM   #8
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

Nice try, not playing though.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:21 PM   #9
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

Why don't you look back a few years and see what ArchBoston was like before you and a few others turned it into a place for your pissing contests. Ever notice how few people post anymore?
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Old 11-21-2012, 09:33 PM   #10
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

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Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy couldn't release this till after the election! Don't forget the governor made it clear he wasn't going to talk about gas tax till after the election. Seems like the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy is part of the Deval Partrick administration. Notice the is no mention of reform.
Sir, your boxes of tin foil hats have arrived. Where do you want me to put them?

Jokes aside, at least keep politics in the General Section.
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Old 11-21-2012, 09:54 PM   #11
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

Using your old screen name now bbfen?
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Old 11-23-2012, 09:18 PM   #12
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

The deal was, as is often the case in Massachusetts (and every other state and country in the world), substantiative things get postponed until after the election. Because politicians aren't going to commit to tax increases before the election and because the election swallows up all the energy in the room so if this stuff is released before it, it would fall by the wayside.
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Old 11-23-2012, 11:12 PM   #13
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

Toll the central artery.
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Old 11-24-2012, 10:39 AM   #14
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

Toll the highways to NH, since most of our sales tax money is fleeing quite logically to the north. Or get rid of the sales tax and collect other increased retail taxes from the commerce staying local.

I'd also add open road tolling and get rid of the overpaid & unnecessary staffed booths.

Start downgrading redundant highways to local roads (McGrath anyone?), if not abandoning or demolishing them entirely, to get them off the maintenance ledger.

The state has more roads than it needs and can afford to maintain. It is also turning a blind eye to a large number of highway users which aren't contributing to the upkeep, while others are getting heavily shaken down for it. To be equitable everyone should be getting tolled equally for use or no one should be getting tolled at all.
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Old 11-24-2012, 12:04 PM   #15
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

I totally don't get why Mass. Highway is bothering to repair the Bowker Overpass (over Beacon St and Comm. Ave.) when they could just demolish it immediately.
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Old 11-25-2012, 09:37 PM   #16
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

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Toll the central artery.
+1. But I'm pretty sure that's a non-starter since it's party of the IHS and is not grandfathered in.
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Old 11-26-2012, 07:21 AM   #17
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

You can't toll any existing interstate highways. The only way to achieve toll equity is to eliminate the tolls.
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Old 11-26-2012, 07:38 AM   #18
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

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The only way to achieve toll equity is to eliminate the tolls.
Yes, lets have lots of roads but no one has to pay for them!
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Old 11-26-2012, 07:39 AM   #19
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

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Yes, lets have lots of roads but no one has to pay for them!
I'll say it again - double the state's portion of the gas tax.
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Old 11-26-2012, 09:06 AM   #20
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Re: The State Highway System Runs a Larger Deficit than the MBTA

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I'll say it again - double the state's portion of the gas tax.
Agreed. It is dumb to have just one toll road in the state. The idea of having tolls on the pike was to pay for its construction, not to provide unending operating support. You are also correct that you cannot retroactively add tolls to the Interstate system highways. The only equitable way to fund roads is to charge all users an equivalent amount instead of pike users vs. others. A gas tax increase would be a logical step as it has not kept with the rate of inflation. However, as has been noted in this thread, increased efficiency will reduce the overall revenue from this source. Especially as electric and LNG commercial vehicles increase in popularity. The VMT is the appropriate way to go. There have been many privacy concerns related to photographic open road tolling and various transmitters. I think the answer is straightforward: Increase the gas tax and add a VMT based on odometer readings when you get your sticker. It doesn't need to be especially high but correlating tax to road use is an important approach to sensible taxation.
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