BOURNE — State Representative Steve Xiarhos (R-West Barnstable) issued a call today for federal transportation officials to make good on their commitment to rebuild the Bourne and Sagamore bridges – without increasing the gas tax or imposing tolls on drivers.
“I appreciate the commitment the federal government has shown to rebuild our aging bridges, but my job is to protect the interests of the people of the 5th Barnstable District, and that is exactly what I intend to do,” said Xiarhos. “On the surface, that means making sure bridge reconstruction is completed, serving the safety and transportation needs of our region, with due attention to local concerns. We also need federal funding, so Massachusetts taxpayers do not get stuck with a huge bill for a federal project. I believe the Memorandum of Understanding signed this past summer furthers those goals, and we need the federal government to follow through on its commitments. But, there’s also more to the story. Specifically, we need to make sure there is no increase in the gas tax, and that the bridges remain toll-free for drivers.”
On Friday, Xiarhos sent a letter to incoming Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, echoing a recent invitation by U.S. Senator Edward Markey for Buttigieg to visit Cape Cod and tour the Bourne and Sagamore bridges. “It would be my distinct honor and pleasure to help welcome you to Cape Cod and to discuss this project, in hopes of working collaboratively to see this project completed successfully,” Xiarhos wrote.
However, Xiarhos also expressed concern about comments Buttigieg made at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. When asked about a potential increase in the federal gas tax by U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R – Fla.), Buttigieg reportedly replied, “I think all options need to be on the table,” adding that the federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993 and is not pegged to inflation. According to Xiarhos, “these comments are worrisome, especially to Massachusetts residents who have consistently rejected proposals to increase the gas tax. My job is to protect taxpayers.” Xiarhos also noted his opposition to the expansion of tolls on Massachusetts roadways, especially on newly-constructed Cape Cod Canal bridges. “Putting tolls on our bridges would not only be unfair, but also damaging to our regional economy, especially during the important summer tourist season. As much as I am in favor of reconstruction of our transportation infrastructure, and in particular the rebuilding of our Canal bridges forthwith, I am equally opposed to increasing the gas tax and putting up new tolls on our roadways.”