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Archived: Transportation Chief Emphasizes Reliability

Posted on March 18, 2016


The first-ever comprehensive capital spending plan developed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation prioritizes repair and upgrade of existing roads, bridges and transit systems to improve reliability, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said today.

Pollack told 230 executives at the AIM Executive Forum that 60 percent of the five-year, $14.3 billion spending plan will be used to improve crumbling bridges, deteriorated roads and World Ware I-era switches on the MBTA. The remaining money will be spent on modernization and expansion.

“What we needed to do is to re-invent capital planning,” said Pollack, a longtime transportation expert who spent much of her first year in office addressing last winter’s catastrophic breakdowns on the T and commuter rail.

Pollack said the interstate highways she oversees in Massachusetts are generally in good shape, so the capital plan will boost spending on non-interstate roads by 60 percent. Two-thirds of non-interstate highways are currently in excellent or good condition, but she said that number will fall to 30 percent at current spending levels.

The plan also calls for continuation of the commonwealth’s accelerated bridge repair program, which would leave only 2 percent of spans structurally deficit at the end of 10 years.

Capital spending at the T will also emphasize improvement of existing assets over “shiny new projects,” Pollack said.  The plan is designed to reduce the system’s deferred maintenance, spending billions of dollars on new cars and on improvements to track, signals and power sources.

Pollack told the audience that the T has made remarkable progress in stabilizing its finances and managing its operations in large measure because of the oversight board and new leadership. The system has new people in the roles of general manager, chief financial officer, chief technology officer, chief procurement officer and other key positions.

The weekly online posting of T performance will be replaced later this month with a real-time online dashboard that will allow the public to monitor key measures such as finances, reliability, ridership and customer satisfaction.

“Transparency, accountability and performance have been become the watchword at the MBTA,” Pollack said.”