By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer
REGION – Gov. Charlie Baker has signed an annual Chapter 90 bond bill that will provide nearly $5 million in road and bridge funding to area municipalities.
The Chapter 90 program is used to provide state funding for capital improvements such as highway construction, road resurfacing and roadside drainage. The 2021 bill sends $200 million to communities across the state while also increasing funding for small bridge grants from $70 million to $95 million. These grants are used to build, repair and improve non-federally funded bridges.
The funding allocation given to each municipality is based on an algorithm that takes into account the population, employment and total road areas of each town or city. For fiscal year 2022, Shrewsbury will receive $989,636. Westborough will receive $795,144 while Northborough will receive $512,972. Southborough will get $434,688, Grafton will get $497,547, Marlborough will get $1,158,351 and Hudson will get $577,900.
Versions of the bill unanimously passed the State House of Representatives on June 22 and the State Senate on July 1 before a finalized version was unanimously approved by both houses on July 15. The bill was then sent to Baker, who signed it.
“This is an incredibly popular program that the communities look forward to each year, and the fact that it was passed unanimously in the House certainly speaks volumes to the level of support that it has,” said State Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Hollinston).
Dykema, whose district includes parts of Southborough, Westborough, Holliston and Hopkinton, said that this year’s bill includes additional grant programs for other priorities, including congestion management and access to transit. She said access to transit is particularly important to Southborough and Westborough, which have commuter rail stations.
Dykema added that the Chapter 90 bill is extremely flexible, saying that the funds included can cover things like walking trails if a community needs them.
“It really allows the community to determine where funds are most needed, and the program is flexible enough to meet those needs,” Dykema said.
State Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) said that the bill enables local communities to find important funds for road and bridge improvements.
“Overall, the investment is into every single community in the Commonwealth to help repair roads and bridges, so it’s a support to municipal governments,” she said.
Kane’s district includes parts of Shrewsbury and Westborough.
Kane also said she was disappointed in the Legislature’s leadership over delays in passing this bill. Because Chapter 90 bills are passed each year, the Legislature should be able to pass this item sooner, she said.
Kane added that it is late in the year for communities to be waiting to hear how much funding is available to them before regional weather makes improvements more difficult.
“This is something that we should be able to do much earlier in the legislative calendar so that cities and towns have as much time as possible to be working on roads and bridges over the months in the year in New England when you can do so,” Kane said.
Dykema said that the legislation was put forward as quickly as possible, adding that this year’s bill’s additional grant programs would be very exciting to communities in Massachusetts.
“That may have added some limited time to the process, but this is certainly within the normal timetable that we would pass these funds,” Dykema said.