Posted on Monday, March 2 2009 by Heather Brandon
In the wake of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s recently-announced transportation and economic security plan, which includes a proposal to raise the state’s gas tax by 19 cents per gallon, key meetings are set to take place in the Springfield area on Wednesday, March 4 to provide input to leaders and hopefully give voice to shaping policy.
At 4:00 pm at Springfield Technical Community College, State Rep. Joseph Wagner of Chicopee will chair a public transportation plan hearing, the first of four in the state focusing on the governor’s proposals. (Directions to get to STCC are here.)
Just prior to that, starting at 2:00 pm, representatives of the area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission‘s office in West Springfield to confirm the first round of federally-funded transportation stimulus projects, according to a press release today from Pioneer Valley Advocates for Commuter Rail. The advocates group will offer direct testimony to MPO officials requesting support for commuter rail in the area.
The hearing at STCC will invite public input on the proposed gas tax increase, which Patrick’s administration asserts is only about $8 a month for most drivers. Among other proposed reforms that must accompany the increase, the governor has outlined the following use for the revenue:
- 4 cents to roll back the proposed toll increases on the Turnpike
- 6 cents to preserve current MBTA services and prevent a fare increase
- 1 cent for Innovative Gas and Toll Solutions
- 1.5 cents for Regional Transit Authorities
- 1.5 cents for targeted regional road projects
- 3 cents for rail projects outside of Boston
- 2 cents to address the costly practice of paying for personnel with bond funds
To invite further input, Governor Patrick has also paid at least one visit to a Springfield home (documented in both the Globe and the Republican), and spoke at a Sunday breakfast event in Chicopee at the Knights of Columbus hall. An avenue for input is also available to the public online via You Move Massachusetts—where transportation officials have also started a blog.
The MPO meeting is slated to take place on the third floor of 26 Central Street in West Springfield, also known as the J. Edward Christian Municipal Office Building. PVACR noted that the MPO consists of eight members, including the PVPC chairperson, the chair of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, the secretary of the Executive Office of Transportation, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) and four local elected representatives from the region.
Officials are looking at whether to request $25 million in stimulus funding for a rail line stretching from Springfield to White River Junction. The potential exists also to connect Springfield with Enfield, Connecticut via commuter rail. On that point, PVACR states:
Connecticut officials must request stimulus funds for the eleven miles from Springfield to Connecticut and the rest of the Springfield to New Haven line. PVACR members are encouraging James Redeker, head of CONN DOT’s rail operations, to ask for stimulus funding for the Springfield-New Haven line.
PVACR added in its press release that coordinators Nancy Considine and Jen Cosgrove will be available with signs and petitions to rally support for commuter rail at both March 4 meetings. “All residents interested in growing the economy and improving the environment are encouraged to speak up for commuter rail,” the organization states. Further:
Those who cannot attend may contact a member of the MPO by emailing: email@example.com or Transportation Chairman Joseph Wagner of Chicopee Rep.JosephWagner@hou.state.ma.us or (413) 592-7857 and fellow Western Massachusetts Transportation Committee member Rep. Rosemary Sandlin Rep.RosemarySandlin@hou.state.ma.us or (413) 786-7600.