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Patrick aides say $200m is limit for road, bridge help

Local officials say $300m is needed

While local officials are requesting $300 million in aid for local road and bridge projects, the Patrick administration on Wednesday said a $200 million borrowing plan for Chapter 90 was all state government can afford.

“We do acknowledge that while it’s a historic high for Chapter 90, like much of public infrastructure statewide, we know cities and towns need more, and we are always doing more to try to help cities and towns,’’ said Scott Jordan, deputy secretary for capital and finance. “This is the most we feel we can do under current constraints.’’

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Last week, governor Deval Patrick filed a $1.5 billion bond bill featuring $200 million for Chapter 90 funding for fiscal 2013, authorizing the state’s first infrastructure bank to leverage private investments and allocating $311 million for the state’s rail and transit systems.

Jordan and Transportation Secretary Richard Davey told the Joint Committee on Transportation on Wednesday that the bond bill was an “interim’’ bond bill to cover ongoing projects, fund Chapter 90, and meet the state’s federal match requirements in anticipation of a new five-year bond bill expected next year.

“We cannot afford everything, and we must be honest in our approach about how much we can afford today,’’ Davey said.

Davey said the bond bill includes no additional funding for the SouthCoast rail project, and he said MassDOT would use existing funds to push forward on the Green Line extension.

Jordan said that projects such as the Green Line extension, which are ramping up in fiscal 2013, requiring a greater financial commitment, are putting added pressure on the administration to fund all programs within the bond cap.

“The overall needs are pushing up against our ability to fund Chapter 90,’’ Jordan said.

While the $200 million proposed for Chapter 90 would level fund the local infrastructure aid from last year, Massachusetts Municipal Association Executive Director Geoff Beckwith, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, and other municipal officials said the need is greater.

“Based on our research, we believe an authorization of at least $300 million is needed to meet the needs that exist at the local level,’’ Beckwith said.

The local officials also urged lawmakers to pass a bill quickly to ensure that cities are towns can be notified of their authorization amounts by April 1, in time for the start of the spring construction season.

Last year, they said, the Legislature passed a bond bill on time, but the administration did not file a “terms bill’’ until mid-June, delaying the actual disbursement of funds until August.

Curtatone said he also supported the idea of an infrastructure bank to leverage private investment in transportation.

“We need a 21st century transportation system that’s equitable to everyone in the Commonwealth and supports a 21st century economy,’’ Curtatone said

Wong called transportation investments at the local level critical to bringing jobs to cities like Fitchburg where companies consider infrastructure when deciding whether to relocate or grow.

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