Northampton’s piloting the first phase of their project to calm traffic on main street and create comfortable spaces for people to dine and shop. (Photo courtesy Solomon Foundation)

The Department of Transportation announced on July 17 the first round of awards, totaling $1 million, for the new Shared Streets & Spaces grant program.

The program, launched on June 10, provides funding and technical assistance to help cities and towns conceive, design and implement tactical changes to curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility and renewed commerce in their communities.

MassDOT awarded grants to 12 municipalities, with 75% of the funds provided to Environmental Justice communities, many of which experienced disproportionate impacts of COVID-19. Recipients of first-round grants are Buckland, Chelsea, Lexington, Lowell, Medford, Nantucket, Natick, Northampton, Provincetown, Somerville, Wareham and Webster. (See details below.)

The winning projects include the construction of ADA-compliant walkways to allow for expanded use of sidewalks for outdoor dining in Buckland; the creation of safe crossing locations due to the anticipated increase in students walking to local schools in Chelsea; and the development of a two-way cycle track linking UMass Lowell with downtown Lowell.

In a statement, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said Shared Streets & Spaces “gives municipalities a helping hand with funding that can be used to immediately set up streetscape elements to keep people a safe distance apart whether bicycling, walking, waiting for public transportation, waiting in line to get in a store, or having a meal outside.”

Shared Streets & Spaces grants will continue to be awarded on a rolling basis for projects that can be implemented this summer and fall, up to the $5 million allocated for the program. Applications will be accepted through Sept. 29, and projects must be mostly or completely implemented by Oct. 9. Grants will be made in the range of $5,000 to $300,000. (See application criteria and other details.)

Grant recipients
The following local projects received Shared Streets & Spaces round one funding:

Buckland: To create outdoor dining space to be used in common by downtown restaurants offering takeout service, and to construct ADA-compliant walkways allowing expanded use of sidewalks for outdoor dining for restaurants in the Shelburne Falls Village Area.

Chelsea: To create safe crossing locations for the anticipated increase in students walking to the Chelsea Elementary School Complex and the Brown Middle School. The project will include temporary pedestrian safety upgrades at several intersections that may include relocation of crosswalks, painted curb bump-outs, pedestrian beacons to increase safety and provide more congregation areas for pedestrians who need to stay socially distant. The project will include the installation of artistic crosswalks or pathway markings to delineate the Division Street walking corridor to increase pedestrian safety.

Lexington: To create additional sidewalk space for people walking and for diners to maintain safe social distancing using jersey barriers and signage to safely block off selected parking spots to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor seating as well as provide retail shops with an area to set up an outdoor table as pick-up spots. The jersey barriers will make it possible to implement these changes quickly and flexibly.

Lowell: To pilot safe paths for walking and bicycling to connect workplaces and recreational activities using temporary materials. Project includes a two-way cycle track linking UMass/Lowell with downtown Lowell, installation of jersey barriers and narrowed lanes for traffic calming and speed reduction; and material installation for multi-use bicycle/pedestrian paths with connections to a local community school and park.

Medford: To expand outdoor dining options for businesses with jersey barriers, reflectors to put on top of the barriers for safety measures, temporary ADA ramps to allow for accessibility to outdoor dining spaces as well as allow for accessibility for surrounding spaces. In addition, equipment for beautification will be obtained to make outdoor dining spaces welcoming.

Nantucket: To repurpose outdoor space with fencing, barriers, bicycle racks, and outdoor stage risers to ensure safety for pedestrians and to get local commerce back to business quickly.

Natick: To create temporary outdoor dining areas on sidewalks, parking lanes, and driving lanes, as well as various pedestrian safety measures to encourage walking and bicycling to and around downtown and to slow traffic speeds using metal pedestrian fences, planters and similar materials.

Northampton: To create an innovative and transformative pilot project to provide new and safer spaces for people walking, bicycling, taking transit and patronizing small shops and restaurants within the core of downtown Northampton. The project will transform Main Street into a place that provides expanded sidewalks and outdoor seating areas, dedicated bicycle lanes, floating bus stops, and a significantly narrowed vehicle travel way to support safer speeds and shorter crossings for pedestrians.

Provincetown: To add public handwashing stations, picnic tables and traffic delineators to support health and distancing, expand public eating facilities to the residents and thousands of visitors that come each summer, and for similar needs.

Somerville: To create a dedicated bus lane and protected bicycle lanes at a high-delay intersection on a top 20 MBTA bus route.

Wareham: To promote the creative use of the public space in downtown Wareham by transforming the historic train station in downtown Wareham Village into an entertainment, food and hospitality area.

Webster: To create three parklets for outdoor dining and pedestrian resting areas with the intention to be made permanent on a seasonal basis.

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