Groups seek more independence for T board

Want 7-member panel to issue its own debt


A GROUP OF TRANSPORTATION advocacy groups and an MBTA watchdog suggested Monday that the successor to the Fiscal and Management Control Board should be built as a larger, permanent panel that operates more independently of the Department of Transportation.

In a new report, the groups outlined recommendations for the Legislature to embrace that they said would create an oversight body tasked with long-term planning once the existing FMCB expires on June 30.

The MBTA Advisory Board, which represents cities and towns in the T’s coverage area, joined with the Conservation Law Foundation, MassPIRG and the Transportation for Massachusetts coalition to call for granting the successor board greater leeway and more powers than the FMCB has, including ability to issue MBTA debt without MassDOT approval so that it can plan major transformative projects.

“The 2021+ Board will need the flexibility to issue its own debt, independent of the secretary or the governor at the time,” the groups wrote. “There may be times when the priorities of the public transportation authority and the administration differ. At these times, an independent governing body must be allowed to do what is right for the MBTA and its riders, despite the political ramifications for an administration.”

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Chris Lisinski

Reporter, State House News Service
Advocates also called for the next board to have full authority over the hiring and firing of the T’s general manager, a power that currently rests with the state transportation secretary. They suggested a seven-member panel, larger than the five-member FMCB, with no sunset date.

The current board, which Gov. Charlie Baker created in the wake of the disastrous winter of 2015, will sunset at the end of June. Baker proposed a new seven-member board in his fiscal year 2021 budget bill, and the House approved its own language extending and expanding the current board, but lawmakers so far have not reached a final agreement.