The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted some existing mobility needs and has also created new ones, such as the need for sufficient space for people walking to physically distance themselves from one another and the need for meaningful commerce to now be safely conducted on the sidewalks and in the streets of our cities and towns.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Shared Streets and Spaces quick-launch/quick-build grant program provided cities and towns with grants as small as $5,000 and as large as $300,000 to improve sidewalks, curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces, and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce.
These improvements could be intentionally temporary or pilots of potentially permanent changes. Grants were made expeditiously and on a rolling basis so that projects could be built and used this summer and fall. MassDOT has allocated $5 million for this 100-day program. Applications were accepted from June 22 through September 22.
Every city and town in the Commonwealth was encouraged to apply for funding, access the resource library, and use technical assistance. Eligibility criteria were intentionally broad to encourage wide participation.
Proposed projects were to advance one or more of the following goals:
- 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
Preference was given to the following types of projects:
- Quick Launch/Quick Build: projects that can be operational within 15-30 days of award
- Equity: projects in designated Environmental Justice areas
- Pilots for Permanence: projects that show strong potential to be made permanent
Successful projects were to be implemented quickly, flexibly, at low cost, and without major roadway reconstruction. Applicants considered using inexpensive and readily available materials, such as traffic cones, temporary plastic barriers, flexible delineators, planters, and temporary paint. (Materials purchased using funds from this program become the property of the municipality.) Applicants were to also consider how a successful project could eventually be made permanent. This program was focused on relatively light-touch projects with quick turnarounds, projects that require substantive roadway/ curb reconstruction may be better suited for other programs.
Eligible expenses could include, but were not limited to, the purchase of materials, labor, and associated operating costs. Reasonable costs for time spent by municipal staff on a project were considered sufficient local contribution. Following award of funding, the applicant municipality and MassDOT worked together to define the precise scope of the project.