Latest Round of Street Grants Focus on Safe Streets, Bikeshare Expansions, and Snow Removal

A ValleyBike station on the UMass-Amherst campus. Courtesy of the University of Massachusetts.
A ValleyBike station on the UMass-Amherst campus. Courtesy of the University of Massachusetts.

Last week, MassDOT announced the latest round of awardees for its Shared Streets and Spaces program, an initiative that began in 2020 and has since awarded $50 million in funding to cities across the Commonwealth for a range of projects including outdoor dining spaces, popup bike lanes, public art, and accessible measures such as ramps and sidewalks. 

This latest round of grants awarded $16.4 million, the largest amount so far, primarily supports efforts grounded in making streets safer for everyone by reducing vehicle speeds and also investing in the equipment municipalities need to maintain their streets and facilitate safe active transportation. 

To further support infrastructure that is safe for people walking and rolling year round, MassDOT offered a new grant category dedicated to equipment for snow removal to clear pedestrian and bicycle facilities. 

43 out of the 138 municipalities that won funding this year will use some of their money for snow removal equipment, including several Environmental Justice (EJ) communities such as Brockton, Leominster, and Framingham.    

Ten municipalities received funding to install “Rapid Flashing Beacons” (RRFBs), safety devices used at crosswalks with bright flashing lights to alert oncoming cars that a person is trying to cross the street. The City of Holyoke, an EJ community just north of Springfield, received $200,000 for three RRFB’s and raised crosswalks in areas where children and seniors spend time and where cars tend to drive fast.  

Merrimac Valley Regional Transit Authority partnered with the City of Lawrence and the City of Amesbury, both EJ communities, and together obtained $399,312.36 in funding toward a whopping eighteen bus shelters complete with wayfinding signage, network maps and schedules, lighting, heating fixtures and benches. 

The transit authority connects several northern communities including Lowell, Methuen, Merrimac, Amesbury, Salisbury, Newburyport, Haverhill, Lawrence, North Andover and Boston, even providing rides into Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.

Two municipalities received funding for their very first bikeshare stations. The Town of Sharon will have one station at an MBTA Commuter Rail and another at a community/senior center. Seniors were a group that saw the greatest increase in biking during the pandemic, according to a City of Boston presentation on Age Friendly Street Design. 

The City of Westfield received $177,888 for its first two ValleyBike share stations, adding to the network of electric shared bikes along the Connecticut River. 

Westfield will also use some funding to install wayfinding signage to help direct folks from the downtown area to the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail, which extends south of the city’s downtown area before merging into the Southwick Rail Trail to the Connecticut border (a construction project still underway is also extending the Columbia Greenway a few blocks north through Westfield’s downtown to the Westfield Riverwalk; longer-range planning is in the works to extend the greenway north through Southampton and connect it to the existing Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton and Northampton).

 

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