With debate over transportation improvements and funding taking shape in the State House, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce has released a platform outlining its position on this important matter. “North Central Massachusetts is poised to be the next area of growth in Massachusetts,” stated Roy Nascimento, the Chamber’s president and CEO. “However, without a strong and reliable transportation system, we will be unable to expand our residential, commercial, and industrial tax bases.”
The platform itself is divided into three sections, covering the Chamber’s position on individual reforms, funding proposals, and priority regional infrastructure projects. “The platform’s goal is to ensure accountability and regional equity as the state explores prioritizing transportation infrastructure and ways to finance these projects” explained Christopher McDermott, the Chamber’s public affairs manager. Key highlights of the Chamber platform include:
· First and foremost, the Chamber believes that any new transportation funding initiatives should be accompanied by meaningful reforms, with increased focus on fiscal management, long-term planning, and sustainability. Moreover, any new funding measures passed for transportation infrastructure should be directly tied to those purposes;
· In regards to funding, the Chamber supports congestion pricing as a targeted method of addressing bottlenecks during peak periods along routes where public transit is readily available. It is also in favor of increasing ride sharing fees for transportation network companies;
· The Chamber is open to the Governor’s Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), provided that New Hampshire and other states in the Northeast participate so as not to place Massachusetts at a competitive disadvantage. While we have some concerns with this proposal, we appreciate the regional focus and the underlying goals of improving transportation infrastructure, reducing carbon emissions, and creating economic development opportunities;
· At the same time, the Chamber opposes expanding tolling along open access state highways. The Chamber will also resist efforts to increase the gas tax or implement mileage fees, as these are regionally inequitable options which penalize drivers in rural areas that lack access to public transit;
· Lastly, once funds have been raised, the Chamber will advocate for the modernization of Route 2 and Interstate 190; expansion of alternative transit options; and improved Commuter Rail service, to include increased frequency of trips, subsidies to address unreasonably priced fares, and express trains from Fitchburg to Boston.
The Chamber’s position was developed after research and polling members. The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee, comprised of members from diverse industries, also helped review and draft the position. A final draft was reviewed and approved by the Chamber’s Board of Directors at their meeting on January 16, 2020. It can be found on the Government Affairs Page under “Chamber Positions” by clicking here. Thank you to all the members who provided input on this issue.