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Baker Admin. Launches $5M ‘Shared Streets and Spaces Emergency Grant Program’

Pedestrians take advantage of expanded walking areas on Beacon Street in Brookline in mid-April. Brookline officials have repurposed on-street parking areas to provide additional space for safe physical distancing in commercial districts and on key routes to area hospitals; City of Boston officials may soon follow suit. Photo courtesy of the Brookline Transportation Department.

The Commonwealth is launching a new $5 million grant program to create safer walking and biking routes with more room for physical distancing as “stay at home” orders ease this spring and summer.

The new program was announced on Thursday afternoon during a press conference with Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito at the Greater Boston Food Bank.

"This was coordinated through the efforts of the team at MassDOT: it's a total of $5 million and it will be available directly to municipalities," explained Polito. "This is a new grant program which will provide grants as small as $5,000 and as big 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."

Polito said that some grants will help towns "calm roadways, modify sidewalks or streets, and repurpose on- or off-street parking where needed to help support retail and dining. Other projects will create safe connections to essential destinations and workplaces, including new and expanded facilities for bus transportation, or putting in flexposts and creating a bike lane."

"We created this program because we heard from a lot of municipal leaders, saying they both needed help and wanted to help," continued Polito. "MassDOT will support municipalities as they implement these projects."

Numerous cities and towns across the Commonwealth have already been working on similar initiatives, led by the Town of Brookline (pictured above), where town officials repurposed on-street parking areas for expanded sidewalks and safer bike routes in early April.

More recently, the cities of Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge have announced their own strategies to provide more space for bikes, pedestrians, and small businesses.

The Barr Foundation will offer free technical assistance to municipal officials to help design projects and submit applications to MassDOT (disclosure: the Barr Foundation is also a major financial supporter of StreetsblogMASS).

Polito said that the Commonwealth will act rapidly on applications and provide funding through the existing Chapter 90 program, and applications will be available through a new MassDOT website on June 22.

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