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Governor Patrick: Time to Shut Down the Mass. Turnpike Authority

Leonard Gilroy
October 1, 2008, 1:53pm

Massachussetts Governor Duval Patrick is seeking to shut down the Massachussetts Turnpike Authority and fold them into a larger restructuring of state transportation agencies:
Governor Duval Patrick says he has directed his secretary of transport and turnpike chairman Bernard Cohen to "prepare legislation to dismantle the Turnpike Authority, merge the remaining transportation agencies, and restructure the Big Dig debt." (direct quotes from press release 10-02) The announcement is part of a series of moves designed to cut spending in response to lower projections of tax revenues. It is mentioned under the heading "Reforms and Restructuring." It is unclear which agencies the Turnpike will be merged with or whether this will create any economies. Any change would require the support of legislators. Soon after he was appointed early 2007 transport secretary Cohen talked about merging the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA) with other agencies, but nothing has come of that until now. Big obstacle to any dismantling would be the takeover of $2 billion+ of Turnpike debt. The Massachusetts Turnpike has the worst financial structure of any toll agency in the US - because debt of the Big Dig project was dumped onto the Authority by the state legislature without the power to raise any revenues from the facility. There are no tolls on the major north-south portion (I-93).
More details here from TollRoadsNews.com. My colleague Bob Poole and Peter Samuel noted the inefficiencies of the MTA in their report earlier this year on the Pennsylvania Turnpike:
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is one of the country's least cost-efficient toll roads, spending a whopping 62.4 percent of its toll revenues on operating and maintenance costs. Of 35 toll roads studied, only the Massachusetts and West Virginia turnpikes spend a higher percentage of their toll revenues on operating costs, according to a new report by the Reason Foundation, a free market think tank that has advised the last four presidential administration on transportation issues.
» Reason's Transportation Research and Commentary

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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