Big news this week when the Healthy Transportation Compact (HTC) met in Boston. At the meeting, MassDOT announced an initial investment of up to $5 million for the critical Complete Streets Certification Program. The program provides competitive funds to cities and towns to create streets that are safe and welcoming for all users. Led by MPHA and MAPC, MassBike and other advocates succeeded in incorporating the program and its funding into the Transportation Bond Bill passed in April. But MassDOT still had to budget the money, and now they have – thank you MassDOT!
The HTC was created by the 2009 transportation reform law and requires the Secretaries of Transportation, Health and Human Services, and Energy and Environment (and the agencies under their supervision) to work together to get more people walking and biking in Massachusetts. Last year, the HTC added the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, recognizing the link between land use decisions and healthy transportation options.
In addition to the Complete Streets announcement, HTC members highlighted a wide range of initiatives that support better bicycling and walking in the Commonwealth:
- Health Impact Assessments are now required for all transportation planning processes, making health impacts an important factor in project development
- The Healthy Transportation Policy Directive issued last Fall has been incorporated into the Highway Division’s project design and review process, so that projects are receiving much more scrutiny for increasing bicycle, pedestrian, and transit use to meet the Commonwealth’s Mode Shift Goals.
- The Assistant Secretary for GreenDOT now has a full staff to oversee implementation of mode shift and MassDOT’s goals to make its own operations more sustainable.
- Purchasing greener vehicles: 40 new, more efficient locomotives, piloting electric buses, and testing hydrogen fuel cell bus next year
- Increasing energy efficiency at facilities, such as converting to LED lights at train crossings (currently lights consume far more energy and must be replaced frequently)
Department of Public Health:
- New Mass in Motion grants awarded to help communities create opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating: 22 programs with 60 municipalities, more communities than before (but less money overall unless applied-for federal funding is awarded)
- Logan Airport Health Impact Assessment completed: mitigating health impacts with measures like banning idling buses and funding community health centers
- Developing criteria for when Health Impact Assessments needed: focusing on roadway projects (traffic volume, emissions, mode shift); transit (stations, increased service, decreased service, parking); airports
Executive Office of Energy and Environment:
- Environmental bond bill passed to fund DCR and other agencies
- Working with MassDOT on GreenDOT regulations under Global Warming Solutions Act: greenhouse gas emissions will be added to transportation project selection criteria
- Working with Housing and Economic Development on land use planning
- Investing in urban parks: a quarter of MA population now lives within 10 minute walk of parkland, funding new urban rail trail in downtown Fall River
Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development:
- Land Use: identifying areas to grow or preserve, using sustainable development principles; working with developers on sustainable projects; investing in these areas; marketing these areas to developers and the world; collaborating with Energy and Environment on regional plans
- MassWorks: incentivizing development where infrastructure is needed
- Housing That Works: multi-family housing, in city/town centers, near job opportunities
In addition to reports from the agencies HTC staff reported that the Healthy Transportation Compact Advisory Council has been formed and is working (MassBike Executive Director David Watson is a member). The Advisory Council is advising on incorporating health into project selection, the We Move Massachusetts capital planning process, Complete Streets training and implementation of the new Certification Program, and preparing a report for the upcoming gubernatorial transition to ensure that healthy transportation initiatives continue uninterrupted.