STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 11, 2019
Responding to the House speaker's call for the business community to involve itself in the debate over the needs of the state's transportation system, two dozen business groups have banded together to promote a statewide agenda for transportation.
The Massachusetts Business Coalition on Transportation (MBCT) said its formation comes as traffic and congestion get worse and riders demand more reliable public transportation service. The group was also formed in response to "the business community's dissatisfaction with the current pace of improvements to our state's transportation systems and services."
The coalition, which includes about two dozen organizations, will be chaired by Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce CEO Jim Rooney, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Tim Murray, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross and Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council CEO Richard Sullivan.
"Transportation, and particularly public transportation, is a critical component to Greater Boston's, and indeed the state's, talent and workforce strategy, housing crisis strategy, economic opportunity efforts, climate resiliency, and our commitment to improving the overall quality of life for the people who live and work in Massachusetts," Rooney said. "It's time for a united voice from the business community that can be a powerful driver of progress."
Business groups have increasingly decried the Boston area's public transportation woes as a hindrance to business growth. Traffic and congestion on the roads make for long and frustrating commutes by car, and the unpredictable nature of public transportation frequently makes workers late to their jobs.
In February, A Better City released a report detailing a $8.4 billion shortfall in revenues needed to ensure state roads, bridges and MBTA infrastructure are in a state of good repair over the next 10 years.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo has been beating the drum to get chambers of commerce and other business groups more involved in discussions around transportation infrastructure and financing, and has said he is open to tax hikes or just about any other prescription to address the state's critical transit needs.
The MBCT said its work will build off of the work of the Commission on the Future of Transportation launched by Gov. Charlie Baker and that its "conversations around new revenues for transportation initiatives will be coordinated with the efforts of Senate President Karen Spilka's working group charged with examining the state's revenue sources."
Murray, the former Worcester mayor and lieutenant governor, said the MBCT's goal is "to provide pathways including possible funding mechanisms on how to create a state-of-the-art transportation system across Massachusetts."
The group said its members feel a responsibility to engage with government and to help identify possible solutions to transportation issues, "particularly when it comes to issues like public/private partnerships, workforce scheduling and applications of technology as well as sharing expertise on complex issues of financing, governance and management, contracting, and project delivery."
In its announcement, the MBCT said it has already met twice to formulate its mission and to discuss transportation policy as it works to set a more concrete agenda.
By Colin A. Young
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE