Massachusetts communities lauded for ‘complete streets’ progress

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The city of Brockton came in a three-way tie for first for 2016’s best “complete streets” policies nationwide, with a perfect policy score of 100.
 
Smart Growth America, which ranks local complete streets policies each year, reviewed 222 new policies that were enacted last year.
 
Of the dozen best policies, nine were enacted by Massachusetts cities and towns, including, Hull, Mansfield, Sherborn, Bridgewater, Brookline, Chester, Ayer and Wales.
 
Complete streets policies take into account not only motor vehicles but also pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation access in the planning, design and operational procedures undertaken for construction or renovation of streets, parks, sidewalks and parking lots. The intent is to make considerations of transportation modes other than vehicles a routine exercise.
 
Many complete streets considerations are low-cost and may be as simple as restriping existing crosswalks or improving markings for all road users. Commonly used construction changes may be included in a renovation to improve walking or bus access safety.
 
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Complete Streets Program provides funding to help finance improvements by cities and towns making a commitment to safe and convenient streets and sidewalks for all residents. To date, 164 cities and towns have submitted their policies for participation.
 
To qualify for funding, a municipality must submit a complete streets policy, signed by the chief executive officer, that then is scored to ensure that the city or town has addressed the components that MassDOT has determined to be crucial to systematically improve local transportation networks that encourages non-motor vehicle transportation options. Those policy components include a clear commitment to review all road work through the lens of safe passage for all ages and abilities to walk, bike, use public transportation, and drive.
 
A well-crafted policy, according to MassDOT, addresses cooperation among municipal departments as well as statewide agencies, promotes “best practice” design standards that recognize that some projects must be sensitive to unique local context. MassDOT looks for both clear implementation steps and a way to measure their effectiveness.
 
When the policy has been accepted, a city or town may seek funding to hire planning professionals or bring in its regional planning agency to develop a five-year prioritization plan that lists complete streets-compliant projects. After MassDOT acceptance, municipalities can seek up to $400,000 per year to cover construction costs of those projects.
 
MassDOT does not dictate which projects should be on municipal plans, nor does it mandate that construction projects not on the plan have a complete streets component.
 
For more information, visit the MassDOT’s complete streets website at masscompletestreets.com.