Thomas M. McGee
State senator, Lynn Democrat and mayor-elect, cochairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation
For too long, tolling inequity has been the status quo in Massachusetts. Drivers from north and west of Boston have paid tolls, while drivers from the south and those entering at our state’s borders have not. In recent years, we have seen the traffic gradually worsen to an almost steady state of gridlock as our public transit system has become more and more unreliable.
The state Department of Transportation and the MBTA must grapple with years of deferred maintenance and a funding shortfall in the billions of dollars in order to repair our transit system. With our entire transportation network at a crisis point, from structurally deficient bridges to unreliable trains, it is clear that if we do nothing, we will see an unprecedented regional gridlock that will stagnate our economy and make Massachusetts a less desirable place to live, work, seek an education, do business, or raise a family.
I have filed a bill that would require MassDOT to develop a comprehensive tolling plan that introduces regional equity and brings additional dedicated revenue into our transportation network. I do not foresee any scenario that would result in placing new tolls across all major roadways in the region. Rather, this proposed legislation would enable MassDOT to develop a plan that distributes the burden of tolls more fairly, and could lead to a decrease for some existing toll locations if others are added.
Before any changes would be implemented, MassDOT would be required to hold public forums giving drivers the opportunity to voice their concerns.
This bill also stipulates that all future tolling revenue be reinvested across the Metropolitan Transportation Network, which would include roads, bridges, commuter rail, subway, buses, and ferries. I strongly believe we need to think of our entire transportation system as a complementary network in order to maximize the efficiency of each. With a more reliable, affordable and convenient public transit system, we would most certainly see the congestion on our roadways diminish and an improved quality of life for all.
I hope this bill will initiate an open discussion about tolling equity and how the state can create a transportation infrastructure for the 21st century that will benefit us all by fueling economic growth and improving our quality of life.
State representative, Andover Republican
Those who think that working families should be squeezed more to pay for state government will embrace the latest Democratic legislative proposal: Imposing more tolls on commuters driving to and from their workplaces.
Those of us who recognize that the state bureaucracy already places too many taxes, fees, fines, and burdens on residents will see this proposal for what it is: an unfair move by the Legislature to saddle working families with an additional tax.
The promoters of these additional tolls even include a punitive proposal to hike rates with something euphemistically called “peak period pricing.” In fact, “peak period” is just another term for “rush hour.” How many readers of this article voluntarily drive during the slow and congested morning or evening rush? No sensible person “joy” rides during rush hour! Rather, rush-hour drivers are hard-working family members who take responsibility for showing up every day, doing their jobs, and hoping the commute home will take no longer than necessary.
These are persons that state government should be rewarding for being honest, taxpaying citizens. Yet, this proposed bill will charge extra costly tolls to these workers who play by the rules. That is neither wise nor fair.
Nor is it fair for the Legislature to impose what amounts to a regressive tax that will weigh most heavily upon those in low-income jobs. Perhaps highly paid government bureaucrats will not feel the pinch of the tolls they levy upon others, but persons working for low or minimum wages will be unduly burdened. The retail clerk or the fast food worker will be socked with a much harsher penalty for getting to their workplace. And, unlike certain highly paid bureaucrats, they never have the luxury of telecommuting or scheduling work to avoid rush-hour traffic.
Finally, it’s unfair to badger working families with more tolls, and then turn some of those funds over to the extravagant and inefficient MBTA bureaucracy. How can anyone seriously advocate inflicting hefty tolls upon overworked taxpayers in order to enlarge and expand an MBTA bureaucracy that has failed to accept common sense reforms and reasonable standards of public service?
Any such action would show a complete lack of concern for the working families who fund and maintain roads, bridges, highways, and public transportation in Massachusetts.
No: 56% (14 votes)
Yes: 44% (11 votes)