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Driving Massachusetts Into the Future 

monica tibbits-nut

Challenges abound for today’s transportation officials, but it’s nothing strange for Monica Tibbits-Nutt, secretary and CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. She took over in November 2023 after serving two months as the department’s interim secretary and chief executive. Prior to that, she was the undersecretary.  

Tibbits-Nutt oversees the four divisions of MassDOT – Highway, Rail and Transit, Registry of Motor Vehicles and Aeronautics – in the most populous state in New England and the 16th in the nation. Her expertise includes regional and transportation planning, urban design and transit equity.  

Tibbits-Nutt recently discussed transportation and sustainability issues and some of the solutions she envisions. 

What sparked your interest in transportation? 

I was always interested in transportation. I realized the biggest housing issue when I was a housing planner in Ohio was transportation. I applied to be on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority advisory board, and I’ve been here 17 years. I like that as a transportation planner I get to build out a whole city. I have a blast every day I come to work. 

What do you think are the most pressing issues in traffic safety today?  

In Massachusetts, speeding and distracted driving. During the pandemic, people got used to driving 70-80 mph, and now, people are looking down at their phones and not driving. You can see it nationwide 

How can we best solve our infrastructure deficiencies? 

Mass transportation is suffering across the nation. The roadways are still considerably congested here, probably more than in the rest of the country. We encourage people to work from home and want to get people closer to mass transit stations and closer to their work. 

But I’m very optimistic about continued infrastructure funds; the federal government is focused on providing funding for agencies, but there still are not [comprehensive] plans. 

What issues do you think will be priorities 10 years from now? 

Honestly, I think we’ll be having the same infrastructure conversations, maybe with more focus on bridges. At MassDOT, we’re looking at our fleet, with a focus on electrification, electrifying commercial fleets and building out electric vehicle charging options for people, so EVs are more cost effective, and those with EVs don’t have to go it alone.  

Building on that, what plans does MassDOT have to become more sustainable over the next 10 years? 

We’ll be getting funding from the federal government to put EV chargers on federal roadways, including the Massachusetts Turnpike. We have 15 regional transit authorities and want to help them electrify, while focusing on equity and accessibility. If we want people to make the switch to EVs, we must provide the infrastructure.  

Just for Fun

What’s your perfect road trip?  

It’s going to different weird places – like to see the largest bale of hay. I love diners and good truck stops, very local attractions. I love Buc-ee’s in the South. 

What was your first car? 

A Cadillac that cost $50. I was in high school. The passenger door didn’t work, and the back doors didn’t work. I couldn’t roll any windows down. I had it for two years until it ceased to exist. It just stopped working one day in front of the school. My best friend’s dad was the fire chief, and the fire department had to get me out with an extrication tool. That’s how it went out. 

Featured image: Courtesy of MassDOT

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