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House Wades Into Transportation Reform Debate

By Meghna Chakrabarti (The Third Rail)

The House debates transportation reform today. The chamber has set aside Tuesday to discuss a 223-page bill that proposes unifying most state transportation operations under one authority: The Massachusetts Transportation and Infrastructure Authority.

The House bill would leave the MBTA as a standalone agency. In that respect, and a few others, it differs from the Senate reform package passed last month. The MBTA, Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and Massachusetts Highway Department would all roll into one authority in the Senate proposal.

Thus, as promised, reform is coming before revenue. But a heated revenue discussion is on the way.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray have committed to crafting legislation that would raise revenues for transportation. They have not thrown their support behind Governor Deval Patrick's proposal to raise the state gas tax by 19-cents.

The revenue discussion is slated for later this spring. Turnpike tolls are set to double on July 1st if alternate funding isn't found. The MBTA has also filed paperwork in preparation to raise fares if the state does not raise revenue to cover the T's $160 million FY 2010 budget deficit.

Reporter's Note: Grammarians, unite! And, thank you to the kind gentleman who left a message on my voicemail this morning pointing out the difference between "holding debt" and being "indebted". In speaking of the Turnpike and MBTA's combined $10 billion debtload, I incorrectly said it was "held" by the agencies. The agencies, are in fact, the ones who have to pay billions to their current bondholders, who, by this time, are probably wondering what the hold up is when it comes to the promised creation of a new transportation revenue plan for Massachusetts.

This program aired on April 7, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Meghna Chakrabarti Twitter Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.

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