Beacon Hill Democrats Looking to Add More Tolls to Boston-Area Highways

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BOSTON — One year after the lights went permanently dark inside the Bay State’s remaining human-staffed tollbooths, giving way to the era of all-electronic tolling, a bill on Beacon Hill touted by a powerful Democrat from Lynn would expand tolling throughout Greater Boston, with high-traveled freeways like Route 128, Interstate 93, Interstate 95, and Route 2 transitioning into tollways.

State Senator Thomas McGee, the chairman of the Joint Transportation Committee, filed the bill, “An Act Establishing the Metropolitan Transportation Network,” last January. His bill was heard by the committee on Tuesday. Testifying at the hearing against the bill was Citizens for Limited Taxation’s spokesman Chip Faulkner. 

Under McGee’s proposal, the following major roadways would be affected:

The tolls would also feature a flex system, with toll rates rising during designated mass-commute hours in order to “take advantage of all-electronic tolling technology” and “provide incentives for motorists using the Metropolitan highway system to use the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority assets” like railways, buses, and boats.

The flex system “implement dynamic or peak period pricing aimed at easing congestion and maximizing the environmental benefits to the region served by the Metropolitan transportation network,” with the intent of the new tolls being to “establish toll charges that address the operating and capital requirements of the Metropolitan highway system.”

CLT executive director Chip Ford challenged the need for tolls and argued in a prepared statement that the problem lies more with spending than with revenue.

“Massachusetts desperately needs to get its exorbitant cost of highway construction and maintenance under control,” he said. “Throwing more and more taxpayer money at a failing and bloated transportation system is not a solution – it’s only digging the hole deeper.”

CLT has also pointed out that the state Legislature’s three-cent-per-gallon gas tax bump extracted more than $766 million out of drivers in 2016 alone, while noting that according to a highway report published in September 2016 by Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, Massachusetts “spends 320 percent more than the national average for every mile of state road infrastructure built or maintained.”


Capital and Bridges Disbursements per State-Controlled Mile
Massachusetts $290,854
New Hampshire $79,385
National Average $84,494
Maintenance Disbursements per State-Controlled Mile
Massachusetts $78,313
New Hampshire $19,906
National Average $25,996
Administrative Disbursements per State-Controlled Mile
Massachusetts $74,924
New Hampshire $23,607
National Average $10,051
Total Disbursements (including bond principal and interest, etc.) per State-Controlled Mile
Massachusetts $675,939
New Hampshire $186,194
National Average $160,997
Source:  Reason Foundation Policy Study No. 448, September 2016, “22nd Annual Highway Report — The Performance of State Highway Systems”

McGee claims the state is facing a $1 billion transportation funding gap. 

His bill does not identify what the toll rates, if enacted, will be. 

According to the Boston Herald, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has signaled his support for the new tollways. 

Walsh claimed that the new tolls “could potentially cut down on traffic, people driving in, maybe they’ll take the train.”