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In front of troubled bridge, Baker presses lawmakers to approve billions in borrowing to fund transportation projects

Governor Charlie Baker was in Worcester on Thursday.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

WORCESTER — The Baker administration is pressing lawmakers to approve borrowing $9.7 billion for transportation and environment projects as it takes advantage of extra cash coming from the federal infrastructure bill.

In front of a noisy highway bridge that is in need of repair, Governor Charlie Baker urged swift passage of the bill that he said will provide matching funds for the new federal infrastructure money and help pay for projects such as road and bridge improvements, new Green Line trolley cars, and electric vehicle chargers.

“It’s critical for us to get this legislation passed as quickly as we possibly can, which will then enable us to move forward aggressively on putting this $9.7 billion . . . series of projects to work from Massachusetts over the next five years,” Baker said.


Signed into law last year by President Biden, the federal infrastructure law provides $9.5 billion to Massachusetts over the next five years and requires matching funds for certain projects.

According to a news release from the governor’s office, Baker’s bond bill includes $2.8 billion to match new federal funding over the next five years and $3.3 billion to support the Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority capital programs through 2026, including funding for MassDOT’s complete streets municipal grant programs.

Capital projects — major efforts that can take years to complete — are usually financed by borrowed money that is paid back over time. A bond bill, if authorized by the Legislature, allows the state to take on debt to fund these projects.

The bill also includes $3.55 billion to support the state’s applications for federal competitive grant funding. States can maximize federal cash by having money of their own to put toward projects — and by having invested already in completing design and other first steps to make projects as shovel-ready as possible.


“We believe there’s tremendous opportunity for us to be very successful at accessing and winning many of those discretionary and competitive grant programs,” Baker said.

The MBTA expects to receive about $2.2 billion from the federal infrastructure bill over the next five years, a $580 million increase compared to the federal funding it would have received otherwise, General Manger Steve Poftak said. Its share of the Baker administration’s bond bill will allow the agency to use the funds to execute big projects, such as its new $374 million bus garage in Quincy, and compete for grants, Poftak said.

“We will compete and we will win,” Poftak said.

The state bill would authorize MassDOT and the MBTA to pilot the A + B procurement method, which rewards a contractor for completing a project as quickly as possible, said Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler.

“The MBTA and MassDOT are well-positioned to maximize the federal government’s five-year funding provision,” Tesler said.

The state estimates replacing the I-290 bridge over East Central Street in Worcester — the backdrop for the news conference Thursday — will cost $24.7 million.

Taylor Dolven can be reached at Follow her @taydolven.