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Boston-Area Cities And Towns Call For 15-Cent Gas Tax Increase

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

Dozens of mayors and town managers in Greater Boston are calling on the state Legislature to raise the gas tax. They say action is needed now to improve the state's ailing transportation system.

Three groups — the Metro Mayors Coalition, the North Shore Coalition and the Commuter Rail Communities Coalition — announced support Wednesday for a 15-cent increase to the gas tax. That would raise the current 24-cent per gallon gas tax to 39 cents.

The gas tax hike would raise roughly $450 million a year in new revenue to help fund transportation upgrades, according to the municipal leaders.

"Right now we are losing productivity and time because the residents of this commonwealth and the metropolitan Boston region are stuck in the worse traffic in the country," Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said. "If we can bring in new revenues ... we can build an exemplary transportation system."

Several business groups have also recently called for an increase to the state's gas tax.

But not all business groups support raising the gas tax. Some opponents say increasing the gas tax will hurt consumers and businesses. And polling has shown little public support for a gas tax hike.

Chris Geehern, the executive vice president of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, said the state must make sure its using all of the money that's already available for transportation upgrades.

"Raining money on a transportation system without updating outmoded procurement regulations and rules governing public-private partnerships is like putting brand new rail cars on corroded 19th century tracks," Geehern said in a statement.

Bedford town manager Sarah Stanton said the municipal leaders in the region hope to see a range of revenue options approved by lawmakers.

"The gas tax is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it is a tool in the toolkit to get us some really desperately needed funding to make this investment," said Stanton, who is also co-chair of the Commuter Rail Communities Coalition.

The coalitions of cities and towns are also calling for more tolls, initiatives to reduce emissions, higher fees on Uber and Lyft and regional ballot initiatives that would allow communities to generate their own transportation funding.

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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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