When I first spoke with Rick Dimino, CEO of A Better City, five years ago, there was a battle on Beacon Hill to approve a gas tax. The $0.03 per gallon tax was finally approved in 2013, although indexing it to inflation failed, depriving the Commonwealth of an additional $1 billion dollars that would have gone to badly needed transportation improvements.
Since then, Dimino says, we have made some progress, but we still face billions of dollars worth of repairs just to bring our current highway and rail system up to "normal."
Dimino praised Governor Charlie Baker for establishing the MBTA Fiscal Control Board, which has made headway in the backlog of repairs, has better prepared the commuter rail and subway system for operating in harsh winter conditions, and has procured funds for new Orange and Red Line cars and new locomotives for the commuter rail. But funding for transportation remains inadequate, says Dimino, adding that there will be a need for more transit service in response to rapid development in areas like the Seaport district.
Dimino says the state must develop a fairer and more effective way to raise the money needed to significantly improve transit infrastructure. Currently, the money raised through tolls can only be spent on the road or bridge the toll is collected on. Though he realizes the political challenges inherent in increasing taxes of any kind, Dimino says lawmakers need to change the law so toll revenue can be spent on other transit needs.