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Poll: Mass. Voters Support Fees And Tolls To Raise Money To Fix Transportation Issues

An MBTA Green Line train leaving Science Park Station en route to Lechmere. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
An MBTA Green Line train leaving Science Park Station en route to Lechmere. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

It's no secret that Massachusetts residents are fed up with transportation and congestion in the state. Now, a new poll finds strong support for a number of measures that would raise revenue to improve transportation.

According to a new MassINC poll (topline resultscrosstabs), most voters want new revenue for transit upgrades and say action is "urgently needed" to improve transportation in the state.

"The urgency that voters are feeling and the urgency voters are expressing, it matches what we're seeing from business groups, civic leaders and so forth," said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group. "Voters are saying they want something to be done."

The most popular revenue measure — with 73% support among voters — was to charge developers a fee for projects near public transit or highways, the poll found. Most voters — 62% — also want to see gasoline companies charged a fee for bringing fossil fuels into the state as part of a regional effort called the Transportation Climate Initiative, according to the poll. And more than half of voters support increasing the fees on Uber and Lyft trips, the poll found.

Massachusetts voters also show strong support for some tolling measures. The poll found 73% of voters support discounting tolls during off-peak times to encourage drivers to travel outside of rush hour. A majority of voters  — 56% — also support so-called "managed lanes" or tolled express lanes that people can pay to enter to beat traffic on highways, the poll found.

The findings come as state lawmakers consider many of these transportation revenue options.

"These results offer voters' current perceptions of some of the options that are on the table. What these results tell me is that many of the things that [lawmakers] are considering do have net support," Koczela said.

One hotly debated revenue option is the gas tax. Several business groups and municipal leaders have recently come out in support of raising the gas tax. Meanwhile, the governor and some other business groups have opposed it. Previous polling has also shown strong public disapproval of a gas tax hike.

The new MassINC poll found 52% of voters oppose a 15-cent increase to the gas tax, while 43% support it. But when asked if they would support a gradual increase to the gas tax, voters were more split. According to the poll, 49% of voters would support a 15-cent increase to the gas tax if it were broken up into three 5-cent increases every other year — compared to 47% of voters who oppose.

The poll also found voters' top priorities are improving roads and bridges, reducing traffic and fixing the state's public transit system.

MassINC's poll is based on an online survey of 600 Massachusetts registered voters.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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