Governor Maura Healey delivered her first State of the Commonwealth address, which included a few brags about her administration's accomplishments in turning around the MBTA, and a few new promises for transportation policies her administration would like to take on in 2024.
Here are some of the highlights:
Campaign promises fulfilled
Transportation wasn't the primary focus on Healey's speech last night – she spent the first 45 minutes of her address talking about other topics like housing and education, where her administration has floated some weighty policy proposals that still need approval from the State House.
Healey also took credit for hiring MBTA General Manager Phil Eng, who attended the speech and earned one of the evening's many rounds of applause. Healey gave Eng credit for "deep operational experience" and for his promising work to date on fixing slow zones.
Healey also shared credit with Eng and the Boston Carmen's Union for making 1,500 new hires in the past year – "the best year of hiring the T has ever had." Healey didn't mention that 2023 was also a historic year for workers leaving the T – 750 people retired or quit. But attrition has slowed down since the T adopted a new labor contract, and overall, the T's workforce has seen a net gain of 730 people over the course of the year.
Next budget will include increased MBTA operational support
For the year ahead, Healey made some interesting promises, but offered relatively little detail.
"Our budget proposal next week will offer transformative investments to improve all the ways we get around in Massachusetts... We’ll double our support for MBTA operations, and tackle deferred maintenance, to build a system worthy of our economy," said the Governor.
It's possible that some of this increased funding could fund improved transit service, like the proposed bus network redesign.
The MBTA Board of Directors Audit and Finance subcommittee meets on Friday, and we could learn more details then.
Looking beyond the gas tax?
Before shifting her attention to economic development, the Governor also made some ambiguous remarks about transportation finance.
"Finally, to address the long-term needs of our rails and our roads, we will appoint a task force of public and private leaders to chart a course for transportation financing in the clean energy era," said Healey. "Under my administration, we will not kick this can down the road any longer."
Healey seems to be referring to the fact that revenue from the Commonwealth's gasoline taxes, which historically have been a major source of funding for transportation projects, will need to quickly converge toward zero in the next two decades to meet her administration's climate goals.
Massachusetts collected $612 million from gas taxes in 2023.