Massport revenues sought for transportation

Mullan calls for authority to do more

 The Patrick administration, desperate for new transit revenues, is exploring ways the Massachusetts Port Authority can pump more money into the state’s transportation network.

At a Massport board meeting on Thursday, Jeffrey Mullan, thesecretary of transportation, announced the formation of a working group of Massport and state officials to explore how the authority can contribute more financially to the state’s transportation system. Mullan said the working group should begin reporting back by mid-September with specific “action steps” and any changes in law, regulation, or policy that might be necessary to accomplish them.

“I realize that there are challenges to this issue, but we need to seriously and substantively look at ways Massport can do more,” Mullan said in his statement.

Mullan noted Massport already participates in the state’stransportation network by purchasing roadways built as part of the Central Artery project; by providing money for Silver Line buses and service; and through its transfer of the money-making Tobin Bridge to the state.

In each case, Massport’s financial support of off-airport projects had to be carefully crafted so it wouldn’t run afoul of a 1982 federal law requiring that revenues generated by Logan International Airport be plowed back into the airport and not diverted for other purposes. Massport already subsidizes seaport operations, but that activity is grandfathered in because it began prior to passage of the 1982 law.

In a brief telephone interview, Mullan said he wants the working group to produce the definitive work on revenue use at Massport. “It’s an important step in recognizing that we’re all in this together,” he said.

David Mackey, interim chief executive officer of Massport, said the authority supports the formation of the working group and its goals. But he urged the group to work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to not jeopardize the grandfathered status of Massport’s seaport subsidies, and not to stray from the authority’s core mission of running the airport.

“At the end of the day, Massport’s greatest contribution to the economic well-being of the Commonwealth will be its continued operation of its airport and seaport facilities in a safe, secure, and world class manner,” Mackey said.