The five-year, $12.4 billion capital investment plan offered Friday by Governor Patrick is basically a wish list as it must go through the funding process and much of the plan would have to be executed by his successor as governor. It is an admirably ambitious proposal, however, that would tackle more of the infrastructure problems that were largely neglected until the governor took office.
From a Berkshire perspective, the $3 billion to maintain and renovate outdated bridges around Massachusetts could be the most significant part of the package, as decaying bridges have long been a county issue. Traditionally, Massachusetts has fallen short on funds for maintenance, which wastes taxpayer money because rebuilding rotting infrastructure is far more costly than maintaining it. As the governor observed in a statement, roads, rail and bridges constitute the "foundation that support private sector investment and expanded opportunity for all residents."
The plan also proposes $196 billion for new buses and improved maintenance facilities for regional transit authorities. A good way to increase job opportunities for Berkshire residents is to provide the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority with the funding necessary to expand routes and night-time hours, better enabling people without cars to get to work.
The Legislature’s approval last year of a 3 cent per gallon increase to the long stagnant gas tax provided needed revenue for transportation projects. A prospective ballot question prohibiting the state from indexing future increases in the gasoline tax to inflation, however, threatens a major chunk of that funding. Given political realities, Beacon Hill won’t increase the gas tax more than once every 20 or 25 years, and without the inflation indexing, that foundation for the private sector will start to crumble like a neglected bridge.