Big Dig debt blocking MA road projects

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — Costs related to Boston’s Big Dig, a network of underground highway tunnels in the heart of the city, are putting the state back by more than $24 billion dollars. State transportation officials say that’s preventing Massachusetts from pursuing other necessary road projects throughout the state.

“The magnitude of the debt and the attendant debt service required of the Commonwealth, MassDOT, and the MBTA certainly keeps us from tackling other, not only desirable, but necessary capital projects for the good of the Commonwealth,” said Massachusetts Department of Transportation Chief Financial Officer Dana Levenson at a hearing held by the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight Tuesday.

Overall, the state’s annual debt burden for the Big Dig is more than $400 million dollars – and it’s expected to grow in spikes each year. Lawmakers say the state needs to generate revenue, and that could mean tax hikes.

“I don’t think we can escape the really difficult conversation about revenues anymore,” said Rep. Carl Sciortino (D-Medford).  “I think everything needs to be on the table, whether it’s tolls or gas tax or some other revenue stream.”

But the House Committee Chairman David Linsky (D-Natick) said if there are new revenues, it should not come from folks who do not use the Big Dig.

“Those of us who live in western Massachusetts or in the western suburbs have been paying for the Big Dig for far too long.  One thing that I’m definitely not in favor of is higher tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike,” said Linsky.

Transportation officials said that for the most part, money collected from tolls is being spent on roads from where those tolls were collected.

Copyright 2014 WWLP TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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