MassDOT Breaks Ground on Summer Street Reconstruction Project in Lunenburg

Representative Benson and others at the groundbreaking ceremony on September 12, 2018.

LUNENBURG – State Representative Jennifer Benson on Wednesday joined Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver, other members of the Massachusetts Legislature, and local municipal officials at a ground breaking event to celebrate the start of an $8.2 million roadway construction project in Lunenburg.

With this project, MassDOT will be reconstructing a 1.6 mile section of Summer Street and North Street in Lunenburg, Leominster, and Fitchburg, and adding new features including 5-foot bicycle lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the roadway.

“The Summer Street reconstruction project is one of the first issues I started working on as a newly elected Representative in 2009,” said Representative Benson of Lunenburg. “After almost 10 years of advocacy, it’s amazing to think that the residents and businesses along Summer Street will soon be able to enjoy safer, more streamlined roads and sidewalks.”

“MassDOT is proud to be carrying out this roadway construction project that will offer new multi-modal benefits such as bicycle lanes and sidewalks and help promote safe travel for all users,” said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. “We thank the members of the public and local leaders who have provided support and feedback throughout the design process and we look forward to the completion of this project.”

The scope of work for this project will include full depth reconstruction, paving, installing drainage structures, granite curbing, guardrail, pavement marking, signage, and carrying out landscaping work. The full project is currently expected to be completed in 2020.

“This project is helping to improve a key corridor that is used to reach destinations throughout these local communities,” said Highway Administrator Gulliver. “We thank the MassDOT staff members who have planned this project so that it will provide benefits for all modes of transportation while ensuring reliability and accessibility throughout this area.”

Ayer Awarded $750,000 Community Development Grant

BOSTON – State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and State Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) announced the Town of Ayer has been awarded a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development for important infrastructure improvements in the historic Grove Pond Neighborhood.

“I want to thank the Baker-Polito administration for awarding Ayer this important community development grant, which will help provide sustainable infrastructure improvements for low and moderate income housing in the historic Grove Pond Neighborhood,” Eldridge said. “I have seen firsthand what a huge difference these grants can make for residents and communities, and I want to thank Ayer town officials for their dedication to making this important investment in our neighborhoods.”

“I’m thrilled that Ayer has been awarded this Community Development Block Grant to make improvements to the Prospect and Oak Street areas in the Grove Pond Neighborhood,” Benson said. “The CDBG program is a vital resource for Massachusetts towns, and I’m glad that Congress went against the wishes of the current presidential administration and funded the program in FY19.”

According to town officials, the Grove Pond Neighborhood suffers from deteriorating infrastructure. The water lines date back to 1896 and sewer lines to 1948. Both systems are obsolete and failing, and are a public health and safety threat to the households in the neighborhood.

The $750,000 CDBG grant will go towards building new sidewalks, improving roadway surfaces, and implementing new water and sewer lines.

Rep. Benson Votes to Pass $2.4 Billion Environmental Bond Bill

BOSTON – Representative Benson (D-Lunenburg) and her colleagues in the Legislature voted on Monday to pass a $2.4 Billion Environmental Bond Bill focused on improving climate change resiliency and adaptation, enhancing environmental and natural resource protection, and investing in parks and recreational assets. The legislation ensures that Massachusetts can continue to plan for global warming and a changing climate, including along our vulnerable coastlines.

“The changing climate is already affecting Massachusetts in the form of record-breaking storms, coastal erosion, and more frequent flooding,” said Representative Benson. “With this bond bill, our communities and industries will have the resources to take proactive steps to protect themselves from the worsening effects of climate change.”

“These investments protect critical natural resources, preserve our parks and recreational areas and aim to make our Commonwealth is more resilient to the threats of climate change for years to come,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I’m proud to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to fund these important initiatives.”

Among other spending, the bill appropriates:

  • $225,000,000 for community investment grants;
  • $100,000,000 for energy and environment coastal infrastructure;
  • $75,000,000 for municipal vulnerability preparedness;
  • $55,000,000 for river and wetland restoration programs; and
  • $54,000,000 for rural investments.

The bill also requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to publish an integrated state climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plan every five years. Additionally, the legislation creates and funds a Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund to fund the implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan, and state and local strategies for climate adaptation.

The Environmental Bond Bill also emphasizes the importance of public and parkland throughout the Commonwealth, appropriating $150,000,000 to tree planting, urban and suburban parks, EEA land acquisition, and trails. The bill also establishes an Agricultural Innovation Fund to finance grants for the Commonwealth’s agricultural producers.

The legislation now awaits action by the Governor.

Rep. Benson’s Credit Freeze Bill Headed to the Governor’s Desk

 

BOSTON – The House and Senate today passed Representative Jennifer Benson’s (D-Lunenburg) legislation providing added protections and resources for consumers in the event of a data security breach.

Under this legislation, credit freezes must be provided to consumers free of charge. In the event of a data breach, consumers will be provided with 18 months of free credit monitoring. If the data breach occurs at a credit rating agency, such as the breach at Equifax reported last year, 42 months of free credit monitoring will be provided.

“As an advocate for consumer protection, I filed legislation to make it easier for victims of identity theft to freeze their credit reports,” said Representative Benson. “In the wake of the Equifax breach last year, I worked with the Attorney General and advocates to strengthen the bill with further protections. Consumers in Massachusetts will now be empowered to take control of their credit data, and they’ll have more tools at their disposal to help them recover more quickly from data breaches.”

“This bill gives Massachusetts residents more control over who can access their credit information and enhances our office’s ability to respond to Equifax-style data breaches in the future,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “I applaud the Legislature for passing this critical bill, and urge the Governor to sign it into law.”

The legislation also updates the framework for the implementation of a credit freeze and gives consumers more control over their data by:

  • Requiring financial institutions to get the consent of a consumer before accessing or using a consumer’s credit report;
  • Requiring clear and accurate disclosure to consumers of basic information about credit freezes, and the new services available to them under this law;
  • Mandating that when a consumer requests a freeze, national credit reporting agencies must inform consumers of other reporting agencies that may have files on the consumer. They must also inform consumers of appropriate websites, toll-free numbers and mailing addresses that would permit the consumer to place additional freezes.

Rep. Benson Votes to Protect Women’s Reproductive Rights

BOSTON – Last week, Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) voted to repeal archaic, unconstitutional laws that impose criminal penalties for abortion and contraception in Massachusetts. With reproductive rights being threatened at the federal level, Massachusetts took decisive action to protect the reproductive rights of women across the Commonwealth.

“It’s critical that we protect the rights of Massachusetts women so they may continue to make their own choices regarding their health,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, (D -Winthrop). “This action takes outdated and misguided laws off the books and makes clear where the Commonwealth stands on reproductive and women’s rights.”

“Congress and the current presidential administration have signaled that they will continue to try to chip away at a woman’s right to choose,” said Representative Benson. “In repealing these archaic laws that criminalized abortion and contraception, we have committed to remaining a state where women have control over their own bodies and reproductive rights.”

Five of the Massachusetts laws the bill repealed were previously deemed unconstitutional under several U.S. Supreme Court rulings including Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), Roe v. Wade (1973), and Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983). The legislation also repeals the requirement that a person be married in order to receive contraceptives.

The bill, also passed by the Senate, now goes to the Governor for his consideration.