MassDOT Launching New Speed Management Tools for Local Partners

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BOSTON – MassDOT announced the launch of a new Safe Speed Website and municipal toolkit to help local partners address saftey issues. 
 
Additionally, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) launched a new round of Shared Streets and Spaces grant funding for implementation of speed management, and free technical assistance is available too. 
 
Preliminary information for 2021 indicates more than 400 people died due to traffic-related crashes in Massachusetts – the most roadway fatalities in one year in over a decade, and thousands of more people seriously injured.
 
Evaluating the safety of streets and crash prevention are important regardless of roadway ownership, and MassDOT has worked in various communities across the Commonwealth to serve as a resource for municipalities looking to address local safety issues. 
 
"Working together with local partners, Massachusetts can reduce crashes, their severity, and design safer modern roadways that prevent serious injuries and save lives. MassDOT is proud to serve as a resource for municipalities to address any safety concerns," said Transportation Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler, "Whether it's the technical and engineering expertise, or municipal grant funding to advance design and construction, MassDOT is continually developing more tools for communities – like the new Safe Speed website – to better address speed as the root cause of many crashes and their severity."
 
Speed management is an approach to address safety issues as the speed people drive correlates to the likelihood of severe injuries or fatalities. Additionally, effective speed management is critical for creating streets that work for everyone, making streets comfortable for people to be able to travel by car, and wheelchair, bicycle, stroller, foot, bus, or other mobility device. 
 
A few miles per hour difference can make a big impact on a person's chance of survival in a crash.  Higher speed crashes are more forceful than lower speed crashes, resulting in more damage to the driver, passengers, the vehicle, and people and property outside of the vehicle. As speed increases, people driving lose the ability to properly observe their immediate surroundings as their field of vision narrows, and drivers require longer distances to come to a stop. The leading threat to the safety of pedestrians is the speed of vehicles – and every person is a pedestrian at some point in their travels even if they are just walking from their parked car to their destination.
 
"MassDOT is excited to be launching this speed management website as the site will offer new ideas for communities seeking to make their roads safer," said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. "The new resources will help identify risks and support more rapid implementation of meaningful solutions."
 
The website includes detailed information about speed management and steps on collecting information, establishing target speeds, implementing roadway treatments, educational information about the relationship between speed and safety, and funding resources. The website has recommended steps for municipalities to implement speed management in communities:
 
Collect information and analyze data. Collect information on current speeds, roadway uses, adjacent land use, and safety. It is important to review existing speed limits to identify places where speed limits no longer match the land use context, roadway design, and safety for all existing and potential roadway users.
 
Establish a target speed. Determine a target speed, the highest operating speed at which drivers should operate on a roadway in a specific context. 
 
Design for speed control and separation through roadway treatments. Select roadway treatments based on target speed, existing speeds, and use of the roadway to effectively self-enforce driving speeds, bringing all vehicle speeds closer to the target speed. Where land use and context support higher operating speeds, more separation is needed to reduce the risk of high-speed collision by keeping vulnerable road users – those not protected by an enclosed vehicle – apart from cars and trucks.
 
Raise awareness. Promote a community-wide safe-speed culture by crafting educational messages that raise awareness about the relationship between speed and safety, implementing roadway treatment changes and safety zones. Conveying the risks of speed and the benefits of speed management design is especially important with new drivers.
 
Set speed limits. Set speed limits through speed zoning. Learn how MassDOT works with municipalities to set enforceable speed limits. If the enforceable speed limit is higher than the target speed plan for speed management implementation and an iterative approach to achieve the best results.
 
Funding to help with projects leading to speed management:
 
Shared Streets and Spaces Program:  A growing competitive grant program for municipalities and transit authorities in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce in municipalities. The program funds a broad range of projects, allowing municipalities to easily rethink their transportation networks and implement unique improvements that suit their needs. Project types include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, outdoor dining, and programing infrastructure, to transit improvements.
  • Launched a new funding round Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, with applications due March 1, 2022.  Includes project type focused on speed management for implementation of new municipal tool kit. Program funded with $20 million and continues the partnership with the Barr Foundation to provide municipalities with free Technical Assistance throughout the application process. 
The Complete Streets Funding Program:  Encourages, educates, and provides funding to communities to incorporate Complete Streets principles into regular local planning and design practices, ensuring safe and accessible travel for all local roadway users regardless of age or ability. The program offers technical assistance and construction project grants to incentivize permanent change.
  • Since 2016, the program has awarded a total of $77.4 million through 418 grant awards. 
  • Funded $50 million
 
Municipal Small Bridge Program: Provides financial support for the replacement, preservation, and rehabilitation of small bridges across the Commonwealth. Program offers grants for both design and construction funding.
  • Will relaunch and begin accepting new applications from February 1, 2022, through April 1, 2022. Program relaunch, funded at $95 million, will offer communities more support than ever before by connecting design awardees directly with MassDOT design consultants. This is just another example of MassDOT providing support to municipalities beyond just funding.
 
Municipal Pavement Program: A new funding program that targets improvements to the condition of municipally owned state numbered routes. Project types include resurfacing, mill and overlay, preservation, and other pavement improvement work on local roadways. Based on pavement condition data, MassDOT annually selects the roadway segments to be improved, in coordination with the municipality, by MassDOT contractors to make the process as easy as possible for communities.
  • This new program, funded at $125 million, will fund and perform the work.
  • Starting this year, with a $15 million investment, will improve over 100 miles of pavement this year alone.  
 
The Local Bottleneck Reduction Program:  A new program that funds innovative solutions to local congestion bottlenecks at signalized intersections to improve traffic flow and safety. Typical projects could include signal retiming, Transit Signal Priority equipment, vehicle detection, and wireless coordination. Through this competitive grant program, MassDOT will work with municipalities and provide resources to complete and implement awarded projects.
  • New program funded with $50 million. Candidates from the first round of applications are being evaluated via site visits in 20 communities. 
 
Additional information about the Baker-Polito Administration's municipal grant programs for transportation needs can be found online: https://geodot-local-massdot.hub.arcgis.com/pages/grants
 
 

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BEAT: Conserving Flowers and their Pollinators

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Joan Edwards will speak at the May Pittsfield Green Drinks event on Tuesday, May 17th at 6:00 PM and give a slideshow presentation about the rapidly decreasing biodiversity that is taking place globally, known as the sixth extinction. 
 
She will specifically focus on flowers and their insect visitors. 
 
This sixth extinction is primarily driven by human actions, from habitat loss to climate change. The impacts of biodiversity loss are far-reaching, resulting in biological communities that are less resilient and with diminished ecosystems services. As part of the discussion, Joan will explore the impact of biodiversity loss in the pollinator-flower world and examine how the surprising dynamics of flower-pollinator networks can help to conserve both flowers and their pollinators.
 
Joan Edwards is a botanist interested in understanding the biomechanics and adaptive significance of ultra-fast plant movements—plant actions that are so quick they occur in milliseconds. Using high-speed video (up to 100,000 fps), she studies the evolutionary significance and biomechanics of fast movements, including the trebuchet catapults of bunchberry dogwood, the vortex rings of Sphagnum moss, the splash cups of liverworts, and the "poppers" of wood sorrel. Her early fieldwork was on the impact of moose on plants in the boreal forests of Isle Royale National Park. 
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