MassDOT took another huge step forward in promoting Complete Streets throughout the Commonwealth. A nagging criticism of MassDOT’s nationally recognized Project Development and Design Guide, which requires bicycle, pedestrian and transit accommodations in all MassDOT projects, was that it was taking too long to implement. Part of the reason is the multi-year design process for MassDOT projects. Numerous projects that were built in recent years were designed well before the guide was developed and, as a result, retained auto-centric attributes. MassDOT’s new Healthy Transportation Policy Directive is a big move to put an end to that pattern.
This problem is something that MassBike has been talking about for a long time. Executive Director David Watson brought this issue up during a meeting with Secretary Davey shortly after the GreenDOT mode shift goals were announced (see below). And I spoke to this issue during the MassDOT Conversations that took place last fall (you can read the comments here), when I said, “What I would like to see is a fresh look taken at projects in the pipeline to see if they still line up with our mode shift goals, land use plans, the Healthy Transportation Compact, and GreenDOT.”
The new directive requires that all projects currently in the design phase must be reviewed to make sure that they support the 2030 mode shift goals outlined in the GreenDOT Implementation Plan (tripling the amount of biking, walking and transit use). This means that even those bridge projects designed back in the ’80s will have to be dusted off, and a fresh look taken. Furthermore, any project which fails to accommodate bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users must be approved by the Secretary and CEO of Transportation. This is a sharp change from the past, when waivers to not include such facilities were relatively easy get. Now it’s our job to make sure that this new directive, like the rest of GreenDOT, actually results in better projects.