Massachusetts governor proposes overhaul of Boston transit system after snow clogged travel

IndustriesAssociated Press

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is proposing major changes to Boston's public transit system after pounding snowstorms this winter slowed the nation's oldest subway system to a crawl, frustrating hundreds of thousands of riders.

Baker filed a bill Wednesday that would create a new Fiscal Management and Control Board to oversee operations and finances of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority through 2018.

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"The T failed its stress test this winter when we needed it most, exposing the deep operational problems and lack of planning," Baker said in a written statement. "This legislation sets in motion significant reforms to once again deliver accountability, reliability and the world-class transportation system Massachusetts deserves."

The board would consist of five members — three appointed by Baker, a Republican, and one each referred by the senate president and speaker of the house, who are both Democrats. The members would be charged with developing operating budgets that will improve productivity and increase revenues.

The control board would also have the authority to lift the state's anti-privatization law — a proposal that has been embraced by leaders in the house but has met with skepticism in the senate.

The daily operational, budgeting and planning duties would be left up to a chief administrator, also appointed by Baker.

The chairman and members of the board of directors of the Massachusetts transportation department, which currently oversees the MBTA, have agreed to step down on Tuesday, clearing the way for Baker to assume control of the oversight of the transit system.

A reconstituted 11-member Massachusetts board would be created, according to the bill, and headed up by Stephanie Pollack, secretary of transportation.

Many of the recommendations in the bill were included in a report by a special panel named by Baker to review problems at the MBTA, which oversees subway, bus and commuter rail service in the metropolitan Boston region.

Boston set an all-time snowfall record during the winter, receiving more than nine feet of snow, much of it during February, sparking long delays and shutdown of transit services.