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Patrick Proposes Expanding Rail Service; Revenue Options Listed

BOSTON — With the release of a long-awaited transportation financing report (PDF) on Monday, Gov. Deval Patrick is proposing to expand rail service across the state.

Patrick is endorsing a plan by the state Department of Transportation that would fund rail service from Pittsfield to New York, provide year-round train service to Hyannis, and build a commuter rail line to New Bedford and Fall River.

But the governor will have to make choices on how he suggests to pay for these services.

‘We Cannot Afford’ Current System

Transportation Secretary Richard Davey acknowledged that even without new projects, next year Massachusetts will pay half a billion dollars more for transportation than it will take in.

“The current system we have today, we cannot afford,” Davey said while addressing state and municipal officials at the University of Massachusetts Boston on Monday.

Davey said part of the problem is that the state still borrows money to pay for operating expenses.

“Mowing the lawn on [Interstate-93], we are paying for off the state credit card,” he said.

And Davey pointed out that the MBTA needs new investments.

“The Red Line is running cars that were built in 1969,” he said. “They are the oldest subway cars in the United States that do not have a retirement date.”

A Menu Of Revenue Options

To pay for all this, and for new projects, the Department of Transportation has laid out a list of options that would raise $1 billion a year:

– Instead of being taken down as planned, tolls on the western Massachusetts Turnpike would stay in place.

– A tax on miles traveled anywhere in the state could be imposed. A tax of 2.4 cents a mile would raise the entire $1 billion needed. Transponders would have to be installed on all vehicles for the tax to work.

– A third option would be a “green fee” — the more a vehicle pollutes, the higher the registration fee would be.

– The income tax could be increased. If it’s increased to 5.66 percent, that would raise the entire $1 billion needed.

– The sales tax could go up. If it goes up by 1.5 cents, that would raise $1 billion.

– Another option: raising the gas tax. A 1-cent increase would bring in $32 million a year.

– The Department of Transportation is also proposing a new payroll tax as an option. At .16 percent, it would cover the T’s entire $141 million annual operating deficit. Employers would pay this tax.

Patrick said the costs should be covered by everyone in the state.

“This is about every taxpayer, so I don’t think it ought to be a question of how to avoid who shares in lifting this burden,” he said. “This is a burden we all share.”

Patrick said he will choose from among these options. He’ll outline his preferences Tuesday, during the State of the State address. The details will come in his budget proposal next week.

This post was updated with the Morning Edition feature version. The audio above also includes an interview with Stephanie Pollack, of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University.

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  • jeremystevens

    Just look at all those new taxes. Haven’t enough people moved out of the state? Pretty soon, Massachusetts will be losing more house representatives.

    • Flitzy

      Yeah, how DARE the state get revenue so they can enact all the services that you use daily, huh?

  • cert

    Just read the amount of taxes….This is nothing but legalized robbery… Not more than just about 2-3 thousand people will use all these mindless transportation projects.. An 850 million expansion of south station for WHAT ? Another dunkin donuts shop ?..

    Can we not just fire all the Mass government DOT employees and replace them with temporary workers. There are enough unemployed out that will happily do the temporary job that this entitlement herds….The cost savings on their pensions and insurance alone will solve all these budget troubles….

    • Johan Corby

      2-3 thousand people? That many people get on the T every 5 minutes (yes, I did the math.) People going to work, providing goods and services to the economy. Tourists getting around, visiting museums and spending money at restaurants. Part of this goes to roads that you more than likely drive on and if not have goods transported on. You’re too hung up on not looking past your nose to realize the innumerable ways you and the state at large benefit from good infrastructure. It’s more fun to call it “robbery.”

    • Flitzy

      Ok, but if you complain about taxes then you’re no longer allowed to use public roads, public sanitation services, snow removal, public libraries, or other public works programs.

      Why do everyone that complains about taxes have no problem using the services they pay for?

    • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

      The expansion of South Station would be for increased service to Worcester.

  • X-Ray

    It looks like the money will be collected throughout the state but spent in and around the Boston area where public transit funds have already been squandered, like the Big Dig and the MBTA.

    • Martian Minisculio

      Did you even read the article?? The money is for a train from Pittsfield down through Western MA to New York, train service to Hyannis for access to and from the isolated Cape and Islands, and commuter trains to New Bedford and Fall River in South-eastern MA. These curmudgeonly messages are inexplicable, just at the level of plain sense. Or are you maybe a rich person with a big car, a private plane, and/or a lot of money for parking fees, but somehow not enough to pay 1 cent in gas tax to get that added convenience and access and reduced air pollution to boot?

  • ROBERT FERRARA

    what did the gov. do w/ the snow budget monet from last year? god forbid he would five it back to the taxpayer. 18million spent on burke school they built the gym over the library that cost was some thing . put the library over the gym moron, waste over intelect.

    • http://twitter.com/leftinlowell LeftinLowell.com

      I think we need to spend it on our education system. Things like learning how to type, spell, capitalize proper nouns and beginning of sentences, proper grammar, etc.

      Because obviously the education system failed you, Robert. As a citizen of the Commonwealth, I am truly sorry.

    • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

      I’m pretty sure the snow money went to cover this year’s T deficit.

  • derek

    Taxes must be raised to pay for our retirement and kids future retirementt from dot. I have worked for the dot for 23 years getting ready to retire and this is no easy job so stop complaining about our retirement package its not fair

    • http://twitter.com/leftinlowell LeftinLowell.com

      This is obviously a fake ahole who thinks it’s clever to pretend to be a public employee complaining about too-generous benefits. Go away.

      • marthapeterson

        This is obviously a left wing ahole who thinks its clever to make stupid comments about others he disagrees with. Go away.

  • Working Mom

    A graduated income tax is the only option that doesn’t fall disproportionately on those who can least afford it.

    • http://twitter.com/leftinlowell LeftinLowell.com

      Unfortunately, this can’t be done (at least straight-up) without a constitutional amendment.

      There are other ways to “fake” a graduated income tax, like raising the income tax across the board (which is the only way it legally can be done) and then given poor and middle class workers exemptions and breaks to lower their total income tax burden. It’s been proposed but I doubt it’ll go anywhere in the near future.

  • J__o__h__n

    If we can’t afford the current system, why are we expanding it? How many people need a train from NY to Pittsfield? Service from Boston to Fall River? How much money is being spent on a new station for Government Center? Close half the stops on the Green line. If you can see the next stop, they are too close together.
    Raise the gas tax at the same percentage T fares have increased since the last increase in the gas tax.

    • OldCommuter

      Service from Boston to Fall River? Turn the question around and ask yourself how many people need to travel from Fall River to Boston? Simply compare this to Metro-North and the service between Bridgeport and NYC. Would anyone question the value of this route?

      • J__o__h__n

        Fine (I had assumed round trips), how many people? Enough to make it worth the cost?

    • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

      The idea behind the New York to Pittsfield service is to increase tourism.

  • rich4321

    If they are serious about this, get to the root of the problem Fire all those union protected incompetent employees before the turn the knife on everyone else. How much the MBTA wasted every year on the leeches?

    • Flitzy

      Oh look, another senseless union bashing post…

  • OldCommuter

    I’ve been a regular commuter rail rider
    for the past 15 years and I wish “The Way Forward” plan would
    include the electrification of the commuter rail lines. The heavy
    diesel engines that currently lug commuters to-and-fro are hardly
    “21st Century” state of the art technology.
    Electrifing the lines would reduce green house gasses. Just imagine
    if the power was supplied by green technologies “made in MA”;
    just imagine the long term cost savings! It would also allow for an
    underground rail link between North and South Stations. This would
    seemlessly extend MBTA service from Haverhill to Plymouth, Worcester
    to Rockport. It would also allow the Amtrak “Northeast Corridor”
    to extend beyond Boston (without an equipment change), perhaps
    eventually to include the “Downeaster” line. Ah, it’s nice to
    dream!

  • tootsie

    Really Taxachusetts! This is rediculous! I think I am going to get out while I can afford to!

    • SlurpeeMcGee

      Please do. You won’t be missed.

      • Tamila Fiola

        I may not be but my 6.25% will!

  • Flitzy

    I’d love to see more public transit options from central and western Massachusetts into Boston.

    The commuter rail is nice but it only goes so far. Funding for high speed commuter rails plus a wider coverage area would do a lot to promote alternative means of transportation.

    I love the idea of the green and sales tax, as well.

  • burroak

    I am glad that the Patrick administration is addressing an issue which could be the blueprint for other states. One only has to drive interstate 93 in the morning to realize that nowadays traffic has become cancerous. With thousands of teenagers getting licenses and cars annually and an aging population that continues to drive, commuters are going to experience longer and more congested commutes. Our highways are major arteries that have hours-long blockage, our routes are minor arteiries which are also continuing to experience more and more conjestion. Now cities and towns are seeing their major streets(call them veins) with longer lines at traffic lights and more conjestion throughout the day.
    Not only will rapid transit alleviate these malignants growths, but the economic aspect is worthwhile. How many components go into 21st century rapid transit: engineers to design not only the rail systems, but the railcars and computer systems that operate them, the designers to design the many facets of infrastructure, then you need the trades, and craftsman to build all the components, and people to maitain, service, police and manage all of the above. Food for thought.
    It is worth studying traffic amounts over the last four decades in the Bay States; perhaps, in ten or twenty years the annual flow of traffic will suddenly just dissipate; or daily commutes will last longer than one, two, three, four, hours.
    Could it happen someday: A four hours commute? Twenty hours a week, 80 hours a month, a thousand hours a year……wasted, sitting in traffic. You never get those hours back. A thousand hours, hmm, you could certainly learn the blues guitar; and why not? “I got the bluueess, sitt’in here in traffic, wasting my time, hoping to make my sons baseball game, or my daughters audition, dinner with my parents, walk’in the dog.

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