Advancing Women in Transportation

Representative William Straus – Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation

Rep_Straus_may_luncheon_2019
Photo by Frank Monkiewicz, Frank Monkiewicz Photography

 

WTS-Boston Luncheon Seminar – May 2019

By Lindsey Vazquez, EIT (Jacobs)

On May 23rd, WTS-Boston hosted Representative William Straus, the Chair of the MA Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation, as its speaker for the Chapter’s monthly luncheon seminar. The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation is comprised of -members of the State Senate and the House of Representatives. It considers all matters concerning the development, operation, regulation and control of all means of transportation in the air, on land, or in the water.

Representative Straus began by discussing the upcoming transportation plans and priorities as they were presented and discussed within the Massachusetts State Legislature. The overwhelming priority for transportation planning within the State Legislature is for the State of Massachusetts’ transportation systems to achieve a more realistic understanding of the state-of-repair and fund the necessary transportation expansion projects to maintain economic growth. However, the critical issue is the state’s ability to raise funding to achieve that goal.

The quality of the current transportation system, at today’s spending level, is unsustainable. The state will require additional transportation spending and funding. Representative Straus discussed the forms in which this increased funding could take; changes to the Transportation Trust Fund, revisions to the gas tax, a vehicle mile traveled tax, or ballot initiatives.

The Transportation Trust Fund is a funding mechanism collected via state tax applied to all residents of the Commonwealth and is only used to fund transportation infrastructure projects. However, the Fund does not begin to cover the necessary spending required to maintain the state’s infrastructure, nor is it spent on infrastructure projects equally throughout the regions of the state.

Two forms of tax revenue were discussed next. The current gas tax is efficient and amounts to a very significant amount of money for the state, approximately 35 to 40 million dollars per year. Representative Straus discussed the Legislature’s consideration of increasing the gas tax. A significant consideration is the effect of the growing automated vehicle industry and the trends to electrified and alternative fuel sourced vehicles. A vehicle miles traveled tax was the second source of tax revenue discussed. This tax would be easy to implement through the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) yearly vehicle inspections; however, this would only tax vehicles registered in the state and not out of state travelers utilizing the state’s roadway.  Additionally, there may be backlash for residents who primarily commute out of state and/or are not serviced by public transportation.

The final funding mechanism discussed was the implementation of local and regional state ballot initiatives. Ballot initiatives would offer an incentive for the residents to fund a local or regional transportation project; however, there are regions of the state that don’t have the population to fund significant infrastructure projects through tax and would leave specific areas without the necessary funding.

It was interesting to hear what the representatives of the State of Massachusetts are currently prioritizing for the future of the state’s infrastructure and the creative ways in which they are looking to increase funding to achieve the state’s infrastructure goals. Thank you, Representative Straus, for speaking with WTS-Boston.

Rep_Straus_and_Sarah

Photo by Frank Monkiewicz, Frank Monkiewicz Photography

For more photos please check out WTS Boston Flickr May Luncheon album here.

 

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