As the House prepared to pass a bill to borrow and spend more than $11 billion to improve the state's transportation infrastructure, Rep. William Straus told his colleagues that the bill addresses some of the "disturbing" things that his Transportation Committee has learned during its oversight investigation of the MBTA.
Both branches included $400 million in the $11.3 billion infrastructure bond bill (H 5151) that the MBTA can use to perform work required by a nearly unprecedented federal investigation that identified major safety lapses at the agency, but the House Transportation Committee chairman said Sunday that it also includes requirements intended to make the T more transparent about safety issues.
One provision of the bill requires that any safety-related report the MBTA has to make to federal authorities like the Federal Transit Administration or U.S. Coast Guard also be sent to the state inspector general's office, and that the reports be made publicly accessible on the IG's website. Another would step up the frequency of certain MBTA safety reports, Straus said.
He said the provisions are meant to address some of what the Transportation Committee has already learned as it has dug into safety at the T. Just days after the committee held its first (and so far only) oversight hearing, an Orange Line train caught fire on a bridge over the Mystic River during a morning commute, leading one rider to leap into the river below.
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"There will be more as the committee continues, but as a result of the oversight process initiated by the speaker and Senate president, there are important changes in this bill already and no doubt there will be more," Straus said Sunday.
The bond bill conference committee report -- which was accepted unanimously in the House early Sunday afternoon -- also includes money for transportation infrastructure projects all around Massachusetts, totaling more than $11 billion.
"I am happy to say the investments throughout the commonwealth will provide better commutes, better environmental response to our transportation system and more reliability," Rep. Norman Orrall, who said he worked on transportation projects as a civil engineer, said. "There is a lot of work to be done."
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The Senate took the bill up at about 2:20 p.m. and it appears it will pass there and be sent to Gov. Baker later today.