THE MOVE TO REPLACE the expiring MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board with a new oversight agency appears to be picking up steam, as a House spending plan released on Wednesday follows the governor’s lead in creating a new seven-member, permanent oversight board.
The proposed Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Board would include the secretary of transportation, five members appointed by the governor, and one named by the MBTA Advisory Board, which represents all of the cities and towns that support the T with funding.
The current board includes five members, all appointed by the governor. The current board was originally formed in 2015 and scheduled to sunset last year; it was extended for one year and is set to expire at the end of the month.
It’s unclear whether the Senate would embrace the approach taken by the governor and the House, but legislation filed by the Senate’s point person on transportation proposed a board of similar size but with a slightly different makeup.
There are many different viewpoints about who should serve on an MBTA oversight board (some believe Boston should get its own seat) and who should appoint them, but there is broad consensus among transportation advocates that the T needs its own oversight board instead of being lumped in with other state transportation agencies under the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board.
Anxiety is also high about the transfer of power. The old board has been at it for six years and several of its members are very knowledgeable about the T. A new board could have a long ramp-up period at a time when the T is facing some daunting challenges, including a looming structural deficit and projects on the drawing board that far exceed available capital funding.
A presentation to the control board on Monday indicated the agency has $30 billion worth of projects awaiting action and only about a third of the funding to cover those costs.
The pending legislation requires that the MBTA board meet a minimum of 12 times a year. The current board used to meet roughly three times a month until an outside safety panel said the lengthy meetings were preventing T staff from doing their jobs. The control board has since cut back to two meetings a month.