T control board’s stance on revenues evolving

Seven months ago the MBTA’s oversight board indicated it was going to weigh in on whether the Legislature should explore new transportation funding initiatives, but since then there’s been nothing.

Joe Aiello, the chair of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, said the timing was not right back then. But soon it will be, he says, pointing out that there have been some new developments on the revenue front. Aiello also says the board is likely to lay out options for the Legislature rather than recommend anything specific, perhaps because of Gov. Charlie Baker’s continued opposition to new revenues.

The focus in March was on capital spending, but a series of initiatives (Red and Orange Line overhauls, South Coast Rail, and Green Line extension) all come on line in the next five years and new expenses (pension liabilities and family and medical leave costs) are putting upward pressure on the T’s operating budget.

The other big unknown is the cost of a commuter rail makeover. The T is reviewing a series of options for commuter rail, and there is growing support on the board for an all-day, electrified, subway-like system. Aiello says the board is likely to make a decision about the future of commuter rail in November, and the long-term cost could be substantial.

“But we don’t have two cents to rub together to get that done,” Aiello said. “If, in fact, that is also something that Beacon Hill views as something important to continue to support the economy and the environment here, that’s an increment that is significant enough that we need to get that data out in public as quickly as possible. “