A roadmap to investing in transportation

Business execs say infrastructure needs improvements, standards, and reforms

FOLLOWING RECORD-SETTING STORMS that crippled transit systems, caused complete gridlock on the roadways, and frustrated commuters across the state, it is clear now to everyone that Massachusetts faces an enormous challenge. The effects of failing to invest in infrastructure were laid bare by Mother Nature.

Transportation infrastructure, essential for commerce and economic development – in the state, region and globally – is in disrepair and in need of a long-term transportation plan.  When an entire transportation systems shut down, it hurts employers and employees and damages both the reality and perception of doing business here.

At the Massachusetts Business Roundtable – a public policy organization of CEOs and senior executives – we believe investing in transportation is a key ingredient to maintain the state’s economic competitiveness. The Roundtable has long advocated for the implementation of meaningful reforms, management improvements, greater performance measurement, and better use of technology to make the administration of transit, road and bridge projects more efficient. The Roundtable has also called for and vigorously supported increases in transportation infrastructure funding.

The good news coming out of the near record-breaking snowfall of the past month is that the public now has a much fuller understanding of the deep, long-standing challenges to fixing our aging infrastructure. There is greater awareness than perhaps ever before about the need to reform our governance and management structures and invest in critical items such as power systems, switches, maintenance and other core infrastructure needs.

As public leaders grapple with the fallout of the state’s unprecedented snowfall and cold, a set of principles developed by MBR’s Transportation and Infrastructure Task Force may inform and guide the public policy discussion on investing in the state’s infrastructure:

  • Promote economic competitiveness. Revenue and investment decisions must be made to promote economic competitiveness and improve the perception and reality of Massachusetts as a place to do business, not harm them.
  • Engage in sound, long-term planning. There needs to be a clearly articulated plan and vision for the investment of new revenue, with clear metrics and performance measures, aligned with a statewide vision for economic growth.
  • Pursue management reforms. Clear evidence of improvements are imperative, including effective resource management, greater performance measurement, efficient service delivery, better use of technology and increased transparency.  Previous, thoughtful reform laws from 2009 and 2013 must be fully implemented.
  • Prioritize maintenance over expansion. Priority should be given to the maintenance and improvement of existing transportation infrastructure in the near term.
  • Ensure regional equity. Any investment of new revenue must be dedicated solely for transportation purposes and distributed equitably across the state.
Meet the Author

Meet the Author

People standing on a platform, stuck in their cars, or squeezed into a bus or train car are not only frustrated, they are unproductive.  They are unable to work, build, learn, innovate, collaborate… all of the activity that drives our economy.  This is unacceptable, it is not an environment conducive to building competitiveness, and it is something that we, as a community, need to fully and urgently address.

Jay Doherty is Chairman of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable’s Transportation & Infrastructure Task Force and the CEO of Cabot, Cabot Forbes. JD Chesloff is Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable.