MassDOT Announces Municipal Funding For Shared Streets & Spaces Program

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The following is a press release from Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)

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BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), in partnership with the Barr Foundation, is announcing Shared Streets & Spaces, a funding program to provide technical and funding assistance to help Massachusetts cities and towns conceive, design and execute shared streets and spaces projects and engage their residents and businesses in that process.

The quick-launch/quick-build grant program will provide grants as small as $5,000 and as large as $300,000 for municipalities to quickly launch or expand improvements to sidewalks, curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility and renewed commerce in their communities.

These improvements can be intentionally temporary, in the style of tactical urbanism, or can be pilots of potentially permanent changes to streets and sidewalks.

“This funding program will help cities and towns create safe spaces outside to help with physical-distancing as we reopen our economy and continue to fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Charlie Baker.  “The more we can do to increase shared spaces, the safer it will be to resume activities such as taking public transportation, going shopping and dining out.” 

“Like Complete Streets, the Shared Streets & Spaces program will create safe ways for people to walk, bike, and use transit as they take advantage of reopening restaurants and retail locations in their communities,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.  “This program will quickly provide flexible funding that will allow communities to launch projects within weeks and see the benefits this summer and fall, whether nicer areas for outdoor dining or safe routes to school for students who may prefer to walk or bike when it’s time to return to classrooms.” 

Types of projects may include:

  • Shared Streets and Spaces: supporting increased rates of walking and/or biking by increasing safety and enabling social distancing
  • Outdoor Dining and Commerce: calming roadways, modifying sidewalks and streets, and/or repurposing on- or off-street parking to better support curbside/sidewalk/street retail and dining
  • Better Buses: supporting safer and more reliable bus transit, including expanded bus stops and lanes dedicated for bus travel, (extra scoring credit will be granted for dedicated bus lanes)
  • Safe Routes to School: creating safe routes to schools (and childcare and programs for children and youth), including safer walking and biking networks with lowered vehicle speeds

Shared Streets & Spaces grants will be made expeditiously and on a rolling basis.  Once awarded, funding will be made available as simply and quickly as possible so that projects can be built and used this summer and fall. MassDOT has allocated $5 million for this 100-day program. 

Applications will be accepted from June 22 through September 29 and projects must be mostly or completely implemented by October 9. 

Although projects of all types and sizes are welcome and may be funded, preference will be given to projects that can be operational within 15-30 days of award, projects in designated Environmental Justice areas and projects that show strong potential to be made permanent.

“Streets and sidewalks, parking spaces and parking lots are public spaces that can be re-imagined and repurposed to serve as a key ingredient in the reopening and economic recovery process, as well as to help make our communities more resilient for the future.” said Massachusetts Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. Secretary Pollack also thanked the Barr Foundation for partnering with MassDOT to provide technical assistance to cities and towns interested in experimenting with shared streets and spaces, adding, “We encourage every city and town to make use of this technical assistance and apply for funding. Somewhere in every community there is an opportunity to better share streets and sidewalks to make walking, biking and bus use safer and more socially distanced and to repurpose streets and parking to support ‘Main Street’ restaurants and retailers.”

“Now is the time to respond to our communities’ immediate needs in ways that make our streets and public spaces more accessible and equitable for people,” said Mary Skelton Roberts, co-director of Climate at the Barr Foundation. “We understand the urgency of the moment and the fact that we will need to rapidly create more space that allows physical distancing once we re-open large parts of the Commonwealth. Barr is pleased that we can help communities across Massachusetts get their projects implemented by this fall with the goal of opening street space for people to move around safely and for local business to benefit from the increased foot traffic. For us, this kind of partnership is ideal. It works for people, supports small businesses, and is good for the environment.” 

The Shared Streets & Spaces emergency funding program is modeled after the Baker-Polito Administration’s Complete Streets Funding Program, created in February 2016, which, as of January 2020, had awarded a total $46 million to cities and towns for municipal projects improving infrastructure to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transportation customers. 

The Administration included $20 million for the Complete Streets Program as part of the Administration’s $18 billion transportation bond bill which was filed in July 2019.

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