The South Coast has always been centered around its port economy, anchored by the record annual catches of New Bedford’s fishing industry. Today, however, booming industries such as offshore wind and key infrastructure projects have brought the promise of new avenues of prosperity to the region.
State Rep. Bill Straus (D – Mattapoisett), as chairman of the House Transportation Committee at Beacon Hill, played a pivotal role in bringing about many of these groundbreaking reforms such as the South Coast Rail , which is expected to become operational in 2023.
Straus, who has made the regular commute from the South Coast to Boston since being elected in 1993, said the 90-minute train ride to the state capitol will be a welcome change for most area commuters who have to usually allow two hours or more. in their schedule to take into account the congestion of automobile traffic in the city.
“The 90 minutes is a predictable schedule, it’s WiFi included, and for some people you can read, you can work, you can just have a cup of coffee,” Straus said when he joined me at the antenna recently. “So that’s a plus and it will be very attractive, and it will bring our region into the working orbit of the Boston area.”
This is not the only infrastructure reform to come in the region. The New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge, a source of great annoyance to local drivers and commercial boaters, is completely replaced with a modernized lift bridge, as opposed to the inefficient swing design on which the bridge had operated for a century.
Straus said this new, more efficient design will improve the journey across the bridge and alleviate some of the high traffic pressures that will come with South Coast Rail.
Straus also discussed the Work and Family Mobility Act, legislation that will allow undocumented Commonwealth residents to obtain driving licenses. The bill was recently vetoed by Governor Charlie Baker, who cited concerns that it would allow unauthorized voting, concerns that were rebuffed by Straus and Commonwealth Secretary Bill Galvin. Baker’s veto is expected to be overturned by the House on June 8.
“The Baker Administration, through the Motor Vehicle Registry, issued nonresident licenses throughout its tenure,” Straus said, further explaining that nonresidents with documented status such as green card holders were able to legally obtain a driver’s license. license in Massachusetts for decades.
“And I know Charlie Baker well enough to say that if there had been an abuse of the right to vote, or access to vote by people who had a driver’s license but were not citizens. he would have made a proposal years ago, and we would have heard from the city clerks, who do most of the voter registration process, that here it was a problem,” he said. said.
Straus also addressed another misconception floated by state Republicans regarding transportation: the idea that temporarily suspending the gasoline tax would bring economic relief to Commonwealth residents. Straus said repealing the gas tax would not only deprive residents of $50 million to $60 million a month in much-needed funding to fix roads, bridges and for projects like South Coast Rail, but it wouldn’t. would serve only to be a source of profit for oil. businesses.
“Gasoline tax is something that is paid by probably 10 to 15 oil companies that are charged on a gallon of gasoline,” Straus said. “At best, if there’s a price drop for the oil companies, they don’t pass it on to you. At best, what they do, studies show that in 34 different states, maybe 18 cents on the dollar, 18% will be reflected in the price, the rest will go into the pockets of Big Oil.”
“Everybody is very aware in the legislature, and it was part of my remarks during the debate in the hall, that we have to provide some kind of tax relief, not to the big oil companies – they made their fortunes the year last,” Straus added. “Here’s what you need to do: target the tax relief to those facing these higher energy costs. Tax relief in a targeted, responsible, and prudent way will be addressed in both the House and the Senate later. this session.”
You can listen to the full interview with Representative Straus at The Marcus Ferro Show at 10:30 a.m. below.
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