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POLs encourage funding for clean water and air efforts

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BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS) – Infrastructure legislation passed by Congress last year was in the spotlight on Monday morning in Massachusetts as federal, state and local officials gathered in Quincy and Lowell to celebrate billions of dollars in federal money Massachusetts is willing to put to work on projects they hope will lead to a cleaner Commonwealth.

Governor Charlie Baker, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Representative Stephen Lynch, House Speaker Ron Mariano and others gathered to officially open a future MBTA bus maintenance garage in Quincy, where Warren said that Massachusetts had “our toes on the line for transformational change right now” thanks to the money the law will send to Massachusetts to fix potholes, pave streets and make “bold and visionary” investments in areas such as public transport.

About $9.5 billion in formula funding is heading to the Bay State over the next five or six years under last year’s federal infrastructure program, Baker said Monday — including $5.4 billion for roads and bridges, $2.2 billion for public transportation and $1.3 billion for environment Infrastructure. By using the money to accommodate the pivot to more environmentally friendly public transportation, the governor said, it can have an even bigger impact.

“The good news for us is not just this particular facility today, but the statement it makes about where we are going and how we will be moving and moving people over the next decade,” said Baker said Monday morning. , adding that the T’s transition from diesel and other fossil fuels to an all-electric fleet “is, for all of us here in the Commonwealth, a very good story and very good news”.

Just over 40 miles to the north, U.S. Representative Lori Trahan, Lowell’s legislative delegation, Mill City municipal leaders, and new Environmental Protection Agency New England Regional Administrator David Cash, pointed to the wastewater infrastructure funding that Massachusetts will get from the Infrastructure Act.

Trahan’s office said Massachusetts would receive at least $1.1 billion in funding to improve water infrastructure over the next half-decade and additional support to address issues of particular concern to Trahan and many other Bay Staters, including discharging sewage into public waterways at times of heavy rains and harmful PFAS contamination in soil and water.

Baker was also excited Monday that the federal government would provide funding to deal with issues like combined sewer discharges and culverts that need fixing. “I can’t express how much I appreciate the federal government’s decision to invest heavily in environmental infrastructure,” he told Quincy. “Environmental infrastructure is infrastructure, just like other infrastructure. But it’s been overlooked for decades and we’ve got a ton of catching up to do there.

The state has long recognized that it has a lot of catching up to do at the MBTA as well. In 2019, T officials estimated that it would cost $10.1 billion to replace all outdated MBTA system equipment and infrastructure. MBTA chief executive Steve Poftak said Monday that $1.6 billion of the $2.2 billion the federal infrastructure law will provide to the T over the next five years has already been programmed and that 580 millions of additional dollars will be spent on new projects.

Poftak said replacing the 104-year-old Quincy Bus Maintenance Facility with “a state-of-the-art facility” and “the first garage in our system to house a fleet of battery-powered buses and zero-emission battery-powered” is a key but early step in the modernization of the MBTA. In order to update its bus fleet to be more environmentally friendly, the T needs to make significant upgrades to facilities like Quincy and its Arborway garage, which is next on the list to be upgraded. .

Improvements to the Quincy facility, which as of 2020 could only accommodate vehicles that entered service before 2010, will allow the garage to accommodate hybrid and battery-powered buses and expand its capacity from 86 vehicles to 120 vehicles. Work is expected to be completed by 2024. Quincy Mayor Tom Koch said the new garage and the electric buses that will operate there will also represent an improvement in the quality of life for residents of his city. “I think of driving Hancock Street in the summer when it’s 90 degrees and there’s a bus in front of you spewing diesel fumes and your ventilation system sucks it into the car and how disgusting that is “, said Koch. “It will completely change that experience on Hancock Street and so many streets in Quincy, on the South Shore and across the Commonwealth.”

In addition to the formula funds, even more federal money will be available through competitive grants, which elected officials and advocates say represents a golden opportunity to build momentum on long-discussed projects and grow. tackling important issues like climate change and geographic equity.

“We’ve always been very good at making sure we get our fair share of so-called competitive grants and competitive bidding opportunities,” Baker said. “I’m confident that will continue to be history as we move forward because we have a very good team on the pitch and we have great partners at the federal level.”

The Baker administration is also expected “in the coming weeks” to file a transportation bond bill with the Legislature to secure state-level commitments that often must be in place before the federal government agrees to finance all or part of a project. . Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler said Monday that the bond bill “anticipates critical needs and investments that will require state correspondence.”