Massachusetts Transportation Advocates Back Senator Eric Lesser's Regional Ballot Initiative Budget Amendment

17 May 2018

Transportation groups across the Commonwealth are lining up in support of Senator Eric Lesser’s recent filing of language to the state’s budget debate (Amendment #1183) that would enable a municipality or group of municipalities as a district to raise additional local money for transportation projects or operations via ballot initiative.

"Regional ballot initiatives are a creative solution to some of our transportation challenges," said Senator Eric P. Lesser, who serves as Senate Chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, and the Vice Chair of the Committee on Transportation. "These initiatives give control to cities and towns, allowing local communities to decide which projects matter most to them and which they want to raise funds for based on local needs. I am thrilled to have the support of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Transportation for Massachusetts and advocates across the state who see the benefits this amendment could bring. While the state government and decision makers on Beacon Hill are focused on funding transportation projects in the Boston area, communities in Western Mass need this flexibility to ensure they aren't left behind."

“Over the past decade Regional Ballot Initiatives have proven to be extraordinarily popular across the United States with nearly 70% being voter-approved by wide margins in districts across the political spectrum,” said Executive Director Tim Brennan. “If passed, regions across the Bay State will be able to access yet another tool to raise local revenues exclusively for specified local and regional transportation projects and services.”

“Giving voters a say in local transportation investments helps build support for new projects that can improve the entire system. When residents put their own money directly into the transportation network, it offers them a voice in deciding which improvements will be most immediately impactful,” said Lizzi Weyant, manager of Government Affairs at MAPC. “These ballot initiatives will not solve the Commonwealth’s transportation funding crisis, but they will go a long way towards ensuring voters can make the investments that matter the most to their commutes.”

Two things I frequently hear from my constituents in Easthampton is the value they place on our transportation system, such as maintaining our roads and bridges, PVTA service and our incredibly popular stretch of the Manhan Rail Trail - as well as their desire to know exactly where their tax dollars are going," said Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle. "The beauty of Regional Ballot Initiatives, as demonstrated in regions across the country, is that it empowers communities and regions to invest in those local transportation assets with a funding mechanism that tells voters upfront exactly which projects and services they will be supporting with that additional revenue."

Chris Dempsey, Director of the statewide advocacy coalition Transportation for Massachusetts said, "We thank Senator Lesser for filing this important amendment, and applaud the many Senators who are cosponsors of this amendment. While regional ballot initiatives would not solve our transportation funding needs alone, this policy is an important piece of the funding puzzle and we strongly support passage of this language during this legislative session. In public opinion polls of Massachusetts voters, respondents have repeatedly and by wide margins favored policies that allow local referenda to fund transportation."

"Many cities and towns have already shown strong local leadership in building a better transportation future with the limited resources, however people across the Commonwealth are still frustrated by the pace of change,” said Stacy Thompson, Executive Director of LivableStreets Alliance.” Now is the time to give municipalities the opportunity to raise revenue for local and regional transportation projects and to give voters a more direct role in the process.” 

A recently released report by MassINC’s Gateway City Innovation Institute identified Regional Ballot Initiatives as a key policy approach for promoting robust transit-oriented economic development in Massachusetts’ mid-sized cities.

“To encourage communities to pursue a broader vision for Gateway City Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and regional economic development, at this stage the how is more important than the what,” said co-author of the report and Principal of Hodge Economic Consulting, Dan Hodge. “Throughout the country, transformative transportation projects are happening where regional transportation agencies are empowered to advance projects by putting local option taxes before the voters in their jurisdictions. By passing pending leg­islation this session, Beacon Hill can give communities in Massachusetts this same possibility.”

Acting as a supplement to other transportation revenues, these funds would give voters a direct role in the process and allow regions across the Commonwealth to re-invest in themselves with specific transportation projects and services enumerated to voters before going to the polls.

 Regional ballot initiatives are regularly used to finance transportation investments in states all across the country (including California, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Idaho, Ohio, South Carolina, and Louisiana). These initiatives have high rates of passage (70-80%) and can be a key mechanism to fund both operations and capital projects for transportation.

Continuing, Comprehensive, and Cooperative Planning Process

Average Annual Daily Traffic

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

Average Daily Traffic

American Farmland Trust

Alternative Fuel Vehicles

American Heritage Rivers Initiative

American International College

Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Approval Not Required

American Planning Association

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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (of 2009)

Automatic Traffic Recorder

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Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990

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Centers for Disease Control

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Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

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Executive Order

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Geographic Information System

Global Positioning System

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Holyoke Community College

Housing Development Support Program

Housing Innovation Fund

Home Modification for Individuals with Disabilities Loan

Highway Overlay District

Historic Overlay District

Homeownership Opportunities Program

High Occupancy Vehicle

Housing Preservation Grant

Housing Production Plan

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Invitation for Bid

Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991

Intelligent Transportation Systems

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Jacob's Ladder Scenic Byway

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Joint Transportation Committee

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Limited English Proficiency

Local Housing Authority

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Light Rail Vehicle

Local Technical Assistance

Massachusetts General Laws

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Uniform procurement law for local governments


Planning/comprehensive permits

Smart growth zoning and housing production

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Subdivision control

Expedited permitting

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century

Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies

Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Massachusetts Geographic Information System

Minority Business Enterprises

Massachusetts Development Finance Agency 

Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act

Massachusetts Geographic Information Council

Massachusetts Historical Commission 

Massachusetts Housing Partnership

Massachusetts Industrial Finance Agency

Municipal Incentive Grant

Massachusetts Municipal Association

Memorandum of Agreement

Massachusetts Office of Business Development

Massachusetts Office on Disability

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Metropolitan Planning Organization

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Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices

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Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

National Association of Regional Councils

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National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (as amended)

National Highway System

Neighborhood Housing Services program

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System 

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Transportation Safety Board

Old Colony Planning Council

Overall Condition Index (Pavement)

Open Space and Recreation Plan

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Priority Development Fund

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Peak Hour Traffic (or Trips)

Payment in Lieu of Taxes

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Pavement Management System 

Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area

Pavement Management Users Group

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Pioneer Valley Regional Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund

Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp.

Rental Development Action Loan

Regional Employment Board

Regional Education and Business Alliance

Regional Economic Models, Inc.

Request For Proposal

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Request for Response

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Roadway Inventory Files

Revolving Loan Fund

Regional Planning Agency

Regional Pavement Management System

Regional Transit Authority

Regional Technology Corporation

Regional Transportation Plan

Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users

Small Business Administration

Supplier Diversity Office 

State Implementation Plan (for air quality)

Sustainable Knowledge Corridor

Single Occupancy Vehicle

Special Permit

Special Permit Planning

Site Plan Review

Statewide Planning and Research Funds

Single Room Occupancy

Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District

Springfield Technical Community College

Statewide Transportation Improvement Program

Surface Transportation Program

Targeted Brownfields Assessment

Transportation and Community System Preservation [Pilot Program]

Transportation Demand Management

Transfer of Development Rights

Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century

Tax Increment Financing

Transportation Improvement Program

The Literacy Project

Turning Movement Count

Traditional Neighborhood District

Transit Oriented Design (or Development)

Transportation Research Board

Trip Reduction Ordinance

Transportation Systems Management

Urban Growth Boundary

Urban Land Institute

University of Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute

Unified Planning Work Program

Urban Revitalization Development Grant

U.S. Department of Agriculture

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U.S. Forest Service

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Ware Adult Learning Center

Weatherization Assistance Program

Women-owned Business Enterprises

Wellhead Protection Area

Western New England University

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Westfield State University

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