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Coalition Of Mass. Businesses Call Upon Lawmakers For Gas Tax, Other Transportation Initiatives

Morning traffic heading north on I-93 in Dorchester. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Morning traffic heading north on I-93 in Dorchester. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders are urging state officials to get serious about addressing transportation issues, arguing that economic competitiveness is in jeopardy over poor roads, traffic and a lack of investment in public transit.

The coalition of business groups — which calls itself the Massachusetts Business Coalition of Transportation (MBCT) — made several recommendations to state lawmakers in a new report. Among the suggestions are ways to reduce congestion on roads, improve access to public transportation and limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The big question is how raise the revenue needed to pay for these efforts and whether business groups will coalesce around a strategy. MBCT said its members aren't united, but a narrow majority supports increasing the state's gas tax. A majority also supports higher fees on ride-hailing services, the group says.

The report came as the result of months of talks among the statewide group of chambers of commerce, research and planning firms and industry associations.

"On a daily basis, this issue of mobility is affecting personal lives, workers, business and commerce. But as importantly, it is not allowing us to deal with some other public policy issues or have confidence that our economic growth strategies can continue to sustain if we don't deal with this," said James Rooney, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the MBCT. "So we view it as a moment — and we've used the word crisis to describe it — that we need to have a strategic plan, including revenue, that deals with it."

There is "strong majority support" among the MBCT member groups for creating a 21st Century Roadway Pricing Task Force that would be helmed by private citizens and given one year to come up with a long-term strategy — including a new statewide tolling system, rates for congestion pricing and options for mitigating social and geographic inequities.

The group would ideally be given specific questions to consider and answer — What are the federal hurdles? What would a statewide tolling system cost to implement and administer? What kind of a system would be sustainable in the future, when the gas tax might not be as reliable of a revenue source? — and would present lawmakers and the public with a range of options.

With reporting from Colin A. Young of the State House News Service

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