• The Road Ahead for Massachusetts Transportation Policy

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    November 08, 2018
    The Road Ahead for Massachusetts Transportation Policy
     
    Transportation challenges abound in the Nashoba Valley and across Massachusetts. A 2017 US News ranking of all states had Massachusetts at #1 overall on the strength of our education system (#1 in the country) and health care system (#2 in the country). But we ranked #45 in transportation, and our commute times are worse than California. This won’t surprise anyone who has to commute on Route 2 at rush hour.
     
    Our statewide system of roads, bridges, walkways, public transportation, and bikeways should be a path to opportunity, supporting our economy and quality of life. And it can be – if we step up with ambition and vision equal to the hurdles we face.
     
    Here are just a few ways that Massachusetts can catch up, and even lead the nation in mobility.
     
    Local Tools for Transportation Projects: In 41 other states, voters at the local and regional level can decide for themselves to fund transportation improvements. That’s how regions in Indiana, Missouri, California, Georgia, and many other regions are making investments in world class transit. Legislation that would let towns and cities in Massachusetts make these choices has passed in the state Senate the last two legislative sessions. So-called “regional ballot initiatives” would let communities keep dollars local, without being filtered through Beacon Hill, and could be an important tool for communities and businesses in the Nashoba Valley.
     
    Reducing Congestion Through Smarter Tolling: Our soul-crushing congestion is an economic hindrance that harms our quality of life. Greater Boston traffic is now the 7th worst in the US -- drivers spend the highest percentage of time in traffic of any region in the country. Other regions of the country have used “smarter tolling” policies to reduce congestion, by giving drivers incentives to shift their trips. By testing discounted pricing at off-peak hours on existing tolled roads and bridges, MassDOT could learn about how to tweak our all-electronic toll collection to restore balance and sanity to our daily lives.
     
    Reforming the Environmental Impact of Our Transportation System: Our tailpipes now create more air pollution than our power plants. While the energy sector has used market-based pricing to reduce carbon emissions, promote innovation, and save money, we can do the same thing in transportation. Tackling this situation in a way that solves both climate and transportation challenges offers many benefits - such as reducing the serious threats to public health caused by airborne vehicle exhaust (one in nine MA residents has asthma).
     
    The business community is an important stakeholder in our transportation system and must play a key role in influencing the road ahead. The above solutions and others can help to get Massachusetts moving again.

    Chris Dempsey, Director, Transportation for Massachusetts
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