Governor Deval Patrick's Budget Recommendation - House 2 Fiscal Year 2011

Governor's Budget Recommendation FY 2011

Transportation Reform

Overview of the Reform Act

The Patrick-Murray Administration is leading the radical change of the Commonwealth’s transportation systems, which have suffered from decades of neglect and inaction.  In June 2009, Governor Patrick signed Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009, “An Act Modernizing the Transportation Systems of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, (as amended by Chapter 26 of the Acts of 2009, collectively, the “Act”) creating a streamlined Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).  A renewed focus on customers, safety, innovation and accountability drives the day-to-day operations of the new Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

A modern transportation network is essential to our economic future.  Our roads, rails and bridges serve as the conduit for commerce and economic growth. A high functioning transportation system is a necessity for the Commonwealth to attract and retain the investment that assures opportunities for ourselves and our children.  The improvements made possible through this Act matter to businesses which need to be able to move goods and services around, across and through the state to markets.

Transportation is an essential resource for the Commonwealth’s residents and visitors.  From Route 2 to Interstate 91, the MassPike to Route 24, a coordinated and functioning transportation system matters to residents who need to get to work every day and home again.  A Regional Transit Authority or MBTA bus matters to students who need it to get back and forth to school.  Our roads, buses and trains matters to the millions of tourists and other visitors who need convenient access to the Commonwealth’s many cultural and recreational attractions

MassDOT represents a merger of the Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works (EOT) with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA), the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD), the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission (MAC) and the Tobin Bridge.  In addition, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and Regional Transit Authorities (RTA) are subject to oversight by the new organization.  The new organization also assumed responsibility for many of the bridges and parkways formerly operated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

An organization chart showing the hierarchy of MassDOT.  The department is organized into the following five divisions, Highway, Transit, Aeronautics and Motor Vehicles.

The department is governed by a five member board and administered by the Secretary of Transportation, appointed by the Governor to serve as Chief Executive Officer of the department. MassDOT is comprised of the following four divisions:

  • The Highway Division includes the roadways, bridges, and tunnels of the former Massachusetts Highway Department, Turnpike Authority, Tobin Bridge and assets of DCR.  The Highway Division is responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of the Commonwealth's state highways and bridges. The Division is also responsible for overseeing traffic safety, engineering activities and snow and ice removal to ensure safe road and travel conditions.
  • The Rail & Transit Division is responsible for all transit initiatives and oversees the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and all Regional Transit Authorities of the Commonwealth. The MassDOT Board of Directors serves as the governing body of the MBTA, which itself remains a separate organization within MassDOT.
  • The Aeronautics Division has jurisdiction over the Commonwealth's public use airports, private use landing areas, and seaplane bases. It is responsible for airport development and improvements, aviation safety, aircraft accident investigation, navigational aids, and statewide aviation planning.  The Division certifies airports and heliports, licenses airport managers, conducts annual airport inspections, and enforces safety and security regulations.
  • The Registry of Motor Vehicles Division is responsible for vehicle operator licensing and vehicle and aircraft registration available both online and at branch offices across the Commonwealth. The Registry oversees commercial and non-commercial vehicle inspection stations.
  • While it has an appointed board and is generally independent of the Commonwealth as a separate body politic, MassDOT continues to be governed by state laws, rules and policies, including the use of the Commonwealth’s central accounting system (MMARS), payroll system and adherence to state fiscal laws.  In addition to the operating divisions, MassDOT has a central office, referred to in the Act as the Office of Planning and Programming that will house the administrative functions (finance, human resources, procurement, legal services, and administration) of the organization, including a planning office to be known as the Office of Transportation Planning.

    Transportation Finance 101:  How We Fund our Transportation System

    Prior to the reform act, transportation policy, planning and financing were segregated into separate silos of quasi-independent authorities and state agencies.  One primary goal of the reform act was to better coordinate our transportation efforts while finding economies of scale and best practices to reduce costs and manage a world class transportation network.  The Commonwealth’s transportation system consists of a vast network of streets and highways, public transit (bus and passenger rail), airports, freight rail facilities and other services such as bicycle paths and ferries that provide for the mobility of people, goods, and services throughout the state. Within the new streamlined MassDOT, jurisdiction over the operations and maintenance of the transportation system is shared among state, regional transit agencies and local governments.

    The annual operating and capital budgets for transportation are developed through a collaborative process that encompasses many different organizations and individuals.  These include:

  • Governor: Establishes overall policies and spending priorities for MassDOT, including recommending the amount of funds that should be transferred to the authority within the annual operating budget.  The Governor also determines the amount and timing of any authorized borrowing to fund capital investments. At the request of the Governor, the State Treasurer issues bonds to borrow funds for authorized and budgeted capital projects at MassDOT.
  • Legislature: Appropriates funds through the annual budget consistent with state statutes (notably Chapter 35 of the Acts of 2009) for transportation programs and projects. The Legislature also authorizes the issuance of bonds, or statutory authorizations to borrow money, to fund the capital budget.  The Legislature does not authorize bonds for the MBTA, which is a separate legal entity from the Commonwealth and from MassDOT.  MBTA capital projects are financed using sales tax revenues legally dedicated to the agency, revenues collected by the agency, and federal transit funds.
  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation:  MassDOT owns, operates and maintains the state highway system, including the I-90 Turnpike and the Metropolitan Highway System and a large inventory of real and personal property.  MassDOT plans and completes capital improvement projects on the state highway system and coordinates with the MBTA and RTAs on bus and rail operations.  MassDOT is responsible for funding the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Aeronautics Division and the removal of snow and ice on over 7,000 miles of roads and bridges.  In consultation with the Governor and the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, the Secretary of Transportation develops an annual operating and capital budget for the department.
  • MassDOT Board of Directors:  The five member MassDOT board, appointed by the Governor, reviews and adopts the annual operating and capital budgets for the department and MBTA.  The Board further recommends policy and funding priorities to the Governor and Legislature.
  • Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) & Regional Transit Authorities (RTA):  MPOS and RTAs are responsible for planning, coordinating and, in the case of RTAs, operating regional transportation systems.  In the Commonwealth, the thirteen MPOs develop transit plans which identify projects for funding from the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
Transportation Funding Sources

The Commonwealth’s transportation system is funded from five sources and administered through two separate funds.  Funding sources include state taxes, motor vehicle fees, federal funds, toll revenue and bond proceeds. These funding sources are maintained within the Commonwealth Transportation Fund (CTF) and Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund (MTTF) to segregate and fully account for transportation-related revenue and expenditures. A description of these funding sources and the related trust funds is provided below. 

The Commonwealth Transportation Fund retains revenue from the motor fuels tax, a dedicated 0.385% of the state sales tax and motor vehicle fees.  The fund is used to pay debt service associated with highway maintenance and construction projects and provides funding for the operation of MassDOT. It also receives federal reimbursement generated by the Commonwealth’s expenditures on transportation construction projects. The Fund was established as part of the historic transportation reform Act and replaces the former Highway Fund, beginning in fiscal year 2011, as the principal source of transportation-related revenues and expenditures for the Commonwealth.

  • State Motor Fuels Tax:  The Commonwealth collects 21-cents per gallon excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, estimated at $663.6 million in fiscal year 2011.  Of the amount, 20.96 cents (99.85%) is credited to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund for transportation related purposes, including the special obligation (gas tax) bonds.  One hundredth of one cent (.15%) is credited to the Inland Fish and Game Fund.
  • Sales Tax:  .385% of the state sales tax, estimated at $296.7 million in fiscal year 2011, is dedicated to the CTF.
  • Motor Vehicle Fees:  The Commonwealth also collects vehicle license, registration and drivers license fees, estimated at $495.3 million in fiscal year 2011.
  • Federal Funds:  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collects the federal fuels excise tax (18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon diesel fuel) which are deposited in the Highway Trust Fund.  These funds are allocated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as matching funds for projects on the State Highway System and by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to the MBTA and RTAs for local bus and rail programs.

    FHWA funds are allocated directly to the Commonwealth and expended by MassDOT for road, bridge and other transportation improvements.  FTA funds are allocated to the MBTA and RTAs for rail, bus and other transit projects.

    A line chart showing Motor Fuels Tax, Motor Vehicle Fees, and Dedicated Sales Tax, in millions of dollars, from 2005 through 2011

    The Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund is the primary governmental fund for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.  It receives an annual subsidy from the Commonwealth, tolls and other fee based revenue collected by MassDOT.  All MassDOT activities, not specifically directed to another fund, are accounted for in this fund.  As a result, most budgeted expenditures of the department are paid for from this trust fund. 

  • Commonwealth Subsidy from State Revenue Sources:  The Commonwealth’s annual operating budget will include a transfer of funds from the Commonwealth Transportation Fund to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund for the operation of MassDOT and supplemental assistance to the MBTA and RTAs.
  • Toll Revenue:  The Act requires reform act requires that revenues collected, on the “Western Turnpike” (I-90 west of Route 128) and the Metropolitan Highway must be spent only on the tolled system from where the revenue was raised.  These tolled revenues fund the operation and maintenance of the Metropolitan Highway System and the Western Turnpike as well as debt service associated with the former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, including debt incurred in the construction of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project.
  • Federal Grants:  In addition to federal gas tax revenues, federal agencies such as the FHWA provide funding for other types of projects such as Intelligent Transportation Systems designed to provide additional information to travelers.  These funds are often restricted to specific projects.
  • Permits and Fees:  MassDOT collects revenues from permits and fees for the use of state highways, facilities and other sites owned by the department.  These are unrestricted revenues available to support all divisions within the department.
  • The following chart illustrates the sources and projected amounts of revenue for MassDOT’s operating budget in fiscal year 2011.

    A bar chart showing Fiscal Year 2011 Estimated MassDOT Operating Revenues, in millions of dollars

Commonwealth Subside  375.1
I-90 Toll and Non-Toll Revenue  330.0
Federal Grants  41.7
Tobin Toll Revenue  28.0
Permits, Rents, and Other Revenue  16.4

    In addition, the Commonwealth is projected to expend through MassDOT an estimated $1.2 billion in bond proceeds and federal funds for transportation improvement and construction projects in fiscal year 2011.  Of this amount, $525.5 million is projected for repairs to structurally deficient bridges financed through the Accelerated Bridge Program.  The remaining amount, $723.1 million, is for administrative expenses and road projects, including an anticipated $150 million allocated to municipalities for local road and bridge projects through the Chapter 90 program administered by MassDOT.

    For a number of years personnel and other goods (paper, utilities, etc.) at MassDOT have been charged to capital accounts – resulting in millions of additional dollars in interest payments while reducing the amount of money available for statewide construction projects. The practice of shifting operating costs to the capital budget was born years ago during tough economic times like those we are currently experiencing.  Over the past two years, capital improvement initiatives at MassDOT for roads, bridges and other improvements required adding additional staff on the capital budget to complete projects.  However, the Administration has monitored expenditures and additional employees assigned to the capital budget to ensure their appropriateness.  Further, over the past two fiscal years the Administration has sought to reduce operating expenditures on the capital budget by closely monitoring capital expenditures, transferring costs to the operating budget and seeking additional appropriations to fund those obligations and proposing zero cost transfers to move capital type expenditures (equipment, furniture, construction materials) from the operating budget to the capital budget. 

    Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Regional Transit Authorities

    Under the Act, MBTA remains a separate legal entity, but is subject to greater levels of oversight by and coordination with MassDOT.  The MassDOT and MBTA Boards of Directors have the same five members, allowing for improved communication, coordination and planning among the MBTA, MassDOT and the Commonwealth.  As a separate entity, MBTA maintains its own financial systems, reporting and debt service obligations.  The authority is required to budget and operate within its revenue sources while providing for both operating and capital expenses from available revenues.  Funding for the MBTA includes:

  • State sources including dedicated 1% of the 6.25% state sales tax and $160 million,
  • Assessments from the 175 cities and towns in the MBTA service district,
  • Fares,
  • Non-fare revenues (e.g. advertising, permits and other).

Prior to 2000, the MBTA received an unlimited “net cost of service” payment from the Commonwealth to offset costs incurred in the previous fiscal year for providing bus and rail service within the metropolitan Boston region.  The “forward funding” reform of 2000 provides the authority with a current year dedicated 1% of the sales tax.  However, since 2000 the dedicated sales tax growth has been much slower than overall historic and projected trends.  During this period, operating expenses have continued to grow based on the rising cost of health care, energy, transit services and collective bargaining agreements.  For this reason, in fiscal year 2009 Governor Patrick and the Legislature agreed to provide the authority with an additional $160 million in supplemental funding to ensure safe, cost effective services expected by riders of the “T.”

Regional Transit Authorities have similar financing sources as the MBTA but they continue to receive net cost of service payments from the Commonwealth in arrears.  The 15 individual authorities rely on fares, local assessments levied on cities and towns within their service district, operating subsidies provided the Commonwealth and federal funds.  These authorities are also required to operate within their own revenue sources.

House 2 Recommendations for Transportation

In prior fiscal years, the annual budget included individual line items for transportation agencies and programs. The Act eliminated that structure.  The fiscal year 2011 budget recommendations reflect changes brought about by the Act.  MassDOT receives the amount appropriated from the Commonwealth Transportation Fund after obligations for debt service, contract assistance and other state transportation programs are funded.  In addition, the transferred amount also includes the sales tax earmarked to the MBTA and RTAs by Chapter 35 of the Acts of 2009.

The new line item structure is consistent with the goals of reform and provides additional transparency and flexibility for the funding of MassDOT and its component divisions. Through the annual operating transfer, MassDOT will fund its operating divisions as well as targeted investments for the MBTA and RTAs. Based on available revenues and projected transportation debt service, the Governor’s budget recommendation proposes to appropriate a transfer of $375.1 million to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund in fiscal year 2011. This amount includes $160 million for the MBTA, $15 million for Regional Transit Authorities and $200 million for the operation of MassDOT.  The amount of the transfer allocated to each MassDOT division and program will be reflected in a fiscal year 2011 budget to be released later in 2010 by MassDOT.

Reform Activities and Cost Savings

The road to transportation reform began long before June of 2009.  After receiving the Transportation Finance Commission report in 2007 that detailed decades of inaction and neglect by previous administrations, Governor Patrick began a plan to secure the Commonwealth’s economic future and maintain safety of the state’s roads and bridges.  Under Governor Patrick’s leadership, the transportation agencies and authorities generated savings and efficiencies through the Massachusetts Mobility Compact, while working on a long-term reform plan.  Those reforms included joining 49 other states in using civilian flaggers rather than police details on construction projects, streamlining project delivery time at MassHighway by 40%, saving $47 million at the MBTA by reducing overtime costs and staff levels and increasing employee health care contributions, and saving $31 million at the Turnpike by eliminating middle management and toll takers.  With the legislature’s support, the Governor launched the Accelerated Bridge Repair Program to address the backlog of maintenance projects left by previous administrations.

Over the past seven months employees from former state transportation agencies, quasi-independent authorities and other state agencies have been engaged in implementing the historic reform act.  As a result of these activities, MassDOT is a functioning, independent department providing services to visitors and residents of the Commonwealth.

As a result of transportation reform, the department has realized the following savings and efficiencies:

  • Reduced Employee Benefits Costs: The transfer of employees to the Group Insurance Commission will save MassDOT and the MBTA an estimated $30 - $40 million annually. The first transfer of employees will occur on February 1, 2010.
  • Lower Borrowing Costs: The Commonwealth avoided $261 million in termination payments associated with interest rate swap agreements as transportation reform legislation prompted an upgrade of the former MTA’s bond rating. Additional savings will be generated as the higher rating provides access to lower cost funding sources, increased opportunity to re-finance existing debt at lower rates, and the capacity to raise additional funds for capital improvements.
  •   Consolidation of Administrative Functions: The savings impact of consolidation initiatives completed in the first 3 months is estimated to be $2 million annually. These initiatives include the integration of the former MTA’s accounting system onto the Commonwealth’s Massachusetts Management, Accounting, and Reporting system (MMARs) and the consolidation of worker’s compensation administration with the state’s existing worker’s compensation department. Savings are also being realized as the former MTA benefits from the Commonwealth’s tort reform legislation and insurance programs. Efforts to further consolidate MassDOT’s finance, HR, and IT functions are also underway.
  •   Operational Efficiencies: Savings of over $5 million have been generated by replacing the existing 511 information news service, forming a partnership with municipalities and state agencies to use rent free locations for the Registry Division and the development of a public-private partnership at the Registry Division to reinstate electronic courtesy notes for driver’s licenses and ID renewals at no cost to taxpayers. Areas targeted for additional savings include procurement and fleet.

MassDOT continues to integrate the Turnpike Authority and Highway Department into the new Highway Division.  The administration will improve Registry operations for the 21st century with the goal of shorter wait times, enhanced customer service and focus on safety programs. Statewide airport planning, financing and operations efficiencies will be realized through the new Aeronautics Division.  Finally, the newly formed MassDOT is building upon the fiscal, human resources and legal “Shared Services” programs implemented by the former Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works in 2004.  Shared Services allows division heads to make policy and funding decisions while implementation of those decisions is managed by secretariat staff.  This creates additional freedom and resources for line level and division managers to focus on core mission activities.  The new MassDOT website,, is routinely updated with progress reports demonstrating the department’s commitment to safety, transparency and the goal of creating one transportation system for the Commonwealth. 

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