Keolis met locomotive requirement last week
Also: Snow and ice deficit; 86% transponder use
The MBTA’s commuter rail operator met its requirement for ready-to-go locomotives all last week for the first time since January, T officials said on Monday.
Keolis Commuter Services is contractually required to have 67 locomotives available for service each weekday, and last week it had between 67 and 72 available every day. That good news on locomotives was offset by reports that Keolis lacked the required number of passenger coaches all last week, a situation that has not changed since March 9. Keolis has blamed the problem on a mysterious malady affecting the coach wheels.
Steve Poftak, a member of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, pointed out that Keolis officials had told the board at an earlier meeting that they expected to get a handle on the coach problem by May 15.
“That was the goal that was publicly states, but it now appears we will not meet that goal,” he said.
State spent $126m dealing with snow and ice this winter
The state planned to spend $92.1 million on snow and ice removal this winter, but that amount included $62.1 million contained in the budget and $30 million in a supplemental budget. The supplemental funding has not been approved yet, leaving the Department of Transportation with a $64 million deficit.
State officials are hoping the Legislature will provide funds to cover the entire deficit, but they cautioned that tax revenues are lagging behind forecasts and forcing cuts elsewhere in the budget. In the meantime, they said they planned to use reserves to pay snow and ice contractors
The $126 million spent dealing with snow and ice was second only to fiscal 2015, when the state spent $151.2 million. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said this winter didn’t seem that bad, but it was long and there were lots of foul weather events in central and western Massachusetts. The next-most-expensive winter was fiscal 2014, when the state spent $119.8 million.
Transponder use at 86%
State officials said on Monday that 86 percent of the tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike were paid with electronic transponders over the last six months.“This is one of the highest levels of any tolling agency in the country,” said Jared Kadich, chief of staff for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s highway division. He added that the number of transponders in use has increase 22 percent to 3.2 million over the last year.
Monday was the last day of a six-month grace period that allowed those charged higher pay-by-plate rates to pay the lower transponder rate if they signed up for an EZpassMA account. Officials said more than 16,000 drivers took advantage of the grace period to sign up with EZpass. They said anyone receiving their first invoice under the pay-by-plate program can still take advantage of the EZpass discount if they open an account.