Massachusetts Patrick-Murray Administration Moves Forward To Repair State Bridges


Boston, MA  (CompNewsNetwork) - Following on a pledge to quickly repair the Commonwealth's most neglected bridges, Governor Deval Patrick today filed legislation to accelerate the repair and replacement of approximately 250 to 300 Massachusetts bridges identified as structurally deficient. 

With the support of Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, Senate President Therese Murray, and Treasurer Tim Cahill, the nearly $3 billion plan will address hundreds of bridges in most urgent need of repair across the Commonwealth over the next eight years, creating thousands of engineering and construction jobs while saving an estimated $1.5 billion in avoided inflation and deferred maintenance costs and ensuring the public safety.  

"This program will make our bridges safer and create thousands of jobs and long term economic benefits along the way," said Governor Patrick. "By investing today, we will complete more bridge projects in less time and at a lower cost."

Due to decades of neglect there are now 543 structurally-deficient MassHighway and DCR bridges.  At current funding levels, that number will increase to close to 700 structurally deficient bridges in the next eight years.

Under the Governor's plan, the accelerated bridge program will repair between 250 to 300 additional bridges across the Commonwealth that are currently structurally deficient or would otherwise become structurally deficient during that time period.  Instead of seeing the number of structurally-deficient bridges increase by approximately 30 percent over the next eight years, the number of structurally-deficient bridges in the Commonwealth will be reduced by approximately 15 percent during that time.  Major bridge repair projects across the state will be accelerated, including the Longfellow Bridge over the Charles River, the Fore River Bridge in Quincy, the Whittier Bridge in Amesbury, and the I-91 Bridge in Holyoke.

Legislative leaders and Treasurer Cahill today expressed support for the bridge repair program, and the plan to finance it.

"I applaud Governor Patrick's efforts to advance the repair of our structurally deficient bridges," Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. "One of the core duties of government is the maintenance of our transportation infrastructure. Our bridges are essential to the operations of daily commerce and travel, and they have unfortunately become a matter of public safety. The state for too long has avoided doing basic maintenance and preventative work on its bridges, which has accelerated their decline. By taking action now, we can start to make up for decades of neglect and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past."

A recent report of the Federal Highway Administration estimated that road and bridge construction costs increase between 9 percent and 15 percent each year.  In addition, MassHighway conservatively estimates that the cost of rehabilitating or replacing a structurally-deficient bridge is at least twice the cost of conducting preventative maintenance work on a bridge before it deteriorates further and falls into structural deficiency.

"Repairing and maintaining our infrastructure today will keep costs down and help ensure the safety of those on our roads tomorrow," said House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi. "This plan takes a reasoned approach to improving and preserving the roads and bridges of the Commonwealth while also aiming to spur job growth. I look forward to working with Governor Patrick and Senate President Murray to make this proposal a reality."

By doing bridge projects sooner through the accelerated bridge program, the Commonwealth will save an estimated $1.5 billion: $1 billion in avoided cost inflation and at least an additional $500 million in avoided deferred maintenance costs.

The accelerated bridge repair plan recommended to the Legislature will be financed using $1.1 billion in grant anticipation notes, which borrow against anticipated future federal funding and $1.9 billion in gas tax bonds to be repaid with existing gas tax revenues.

"Careful financial planning is of the utmost importance to me," said Treasurer Cahill.  "This proposal will allow us to fund transportation projects with transportation dollars in a fiscally responsible manner. Along with the Governor, Senate President and Speaker, I look forward to a program that will increase public safety, provide jobs and improve our state's infrastructure."

Building upon the lessons learned from the Central Artery Project, accountability to the state will be a core principle of the management plan. Therefore, the accelerated bridge repair program will be overseen solely by state officials to ensure accountability for timely and cost efficient work.

"The Governor's expectations are high and we intend to meet them," said Secretary Cohen.  "The accelerated bridge repair program will be a top priority of the Executive Office of Transportation, and we fully expect the first work to begin within 90 days of the availability of funding under the legislation."

The accelerated bridge repair program is one component of Governor Patrick's comprehensive package of transportation reforms to deliver high quality services in the most cost efficient manner.  It is also a key component of the economic stimulus plan he laid out in April to create jobs and invest in key growth areas. The already programmed annual bridge maintenance and capital program will be folded into the accelerated program to ensure the coordination and create synergies with existing staff and management operations.

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