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Patrick gives details on how transport funds may be spent

High-speed tolls, more rail likely

Governor Deval Patrick used his Tuesday speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce to hint at how officials might spend the funds provided by the state’s new transportation finance law, plans that could include establishing rail service to the South Coast.

Patrick also provided further details on his proposal to use toll revenue to straighten an Allston stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike and on the rollout of open-road tolling throughout the state by 2016.

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Since July, when state legislators passed a law that raised taxes to provide $800 million annually to fund the state’s transportation systems, officials have been ironing out a plan to spend that money. Patrick said Tuesday that complete details of the transportation spending plan will be released before Thanksgiving.

His speech at the Westin Copley Place Boston hotel suggested that his controversial proposal to implement rail service from Boston to Fall River and New Bedford might be on that list of projects he intends to fund.

When asked about what criteria he will use to prioritize transportation projects, Patrick said he will place a premium on projects that benefit people outside Greater Boston.

He scoffed at the suggestion that promoting the South Coast rail project was a ploy to curry favor for his transportation funding plan.

Patrick explained what he sees as the economic benefits of the project, which would provide quick access between Boston and the southern part of the state.

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“Imagine if you worked here in Boston and could get a fast train to New Bedford . . . within 45 minutes,” Patrick said. “It completely transforms the way we think about economic growth.”

Patrick’s speech touched on plans to use toll revenue to straighten the Allston stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike to alleviate congestion and reduce fumes emitted by idling cars.

“We have shown that investing in education, innovation, and infrastructure — alongside reform and modernization of government itself — is a way not just to endure recession, but also to create a brighter future,” Patrick said.

Patrick also reiterated previous timelines for Massachusetts’ $250 million transition to open-road tolling, which allows cars to travel through tolls at normal highway speed by eliminating toll booths using E-ZPass and license plate recognition cameras to bill drivers by mail.

Tolls on the Tobin Memorial Bridge are expected to be converted to all-electronic tolling by the spring, and a pilot program is scheduled to begin at the end of this year.

Construction of the open-road tolling facilities will begin next summer on the Massachusetts Turnpike, as individual tollbooths are torn down and replaced with large metal archways outfitted with E-ZPass detectors and high-speed cameras that can read license plates as cars zoom underneath.

Once the switch is implemented, motorists who use the tolls without an E-ZPass transponder will receive a bill from the state one month after going through the toll, or after racking up $20 in charges, whichever comes first.

The state will add a $1 to $2 charge per bill to cover the cost of processing and mailing the bills.

Most of the challenges to moving to open-road tolling, Patrick said, come not with the physical infrastructure, but with building the technology to identify the license plates and send out bills to vehicle owners.

State officials have estimated that the switch will save the state millions over the years, and reduce congestion.

Patrick also confirmed that the state will purchase $1.3 billion of new Red and Orange Line MBTA cars.

In recent months, state Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey has said the purchase was at the top of the list of projects that deserved funding.

Seventy-four Red Line cars built in 1969, about one-third of the T’s Red Line stock, and 120 of the cars on the Orange Line, which were built in 1981, are set to be replaced.

Martine Powers can be reached at martine.powers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.

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