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The Baker-Polito Administration recently announced the MassTrails Program, an interagency initiative that will provide funding and resources to municipal and public entities in order to expand and connect networks of off-road, shared-use pathways and recreational trails for all users across Massachusetts.
The MassTrails Program will provide a total of approximately $5 million in matching grants through the first round of funding in Fiscal Year 2020 and will also offer technical assistance and resources to individuals, municipalities, non-profits, and other public entities to design, construct, and maintain high-quality Massachusetts trails.
The grant application for the MassTrails Program will be available beginning Nov. 16, and the deadline for the first round of applications will be in February 2019. More information on the MassTrails program can now be found on the new public website: https://www.mass.gov/welcome-to-masstrails.
“The MassTrails Program will help provide new recreational and travel options for people to enjoy the Commonwealth’s vast network of scenic trails,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This new program will better enable cities and towns throughout Massachusetts to build and maintain these vibrant assets for many years to come.”
“We are proud to announce the MassTrails Program and continue working closely with our municipal and public-sector partners to invest in multimodal transportation networks,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “By simplifying and expanding resources available to municipalities, we can help them improve and increase travel options for everyone.”
The MassTrails Program is being managed by the administration’s interagency Trails Team. Established by Governor Baker in 2017 in order to develop a unified vision for a trails network, the Trails Team is led by the Governor’s office and comprised of staff from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
Since 2015, the Baker-Polito Administration has constructed or funded 150 miles of paved trails, adding to the current statewide inventory of 565 miles of paved trails. Over 30 miles of trails spanning over a dozen projects are currently expected to be completed across the Commonwealth in 2018.
“Trails provide numerous benefits to the people who use them and the neighborhoods that support them, whether it’s access to our natural environment, reduced congestion and carbon emissions, or the ability to enjoy healthy recreational activities,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito, Massachusetts is making great strides in building new trails and increasing connectivity so that people can use these travel options to get to the places they need to go.”
“Massachusetts is home to an extensive network of trails that offer recreational opportunities, connect neighborhoods, increase property values, and provide important access to the Commonwealth’s vast natural resources,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The MassTrails Program serves as an excellent example of the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to foster strong partnerships with local communities and other stakeholders to accomplish shared goals that directly benefit the public.”
In addition to managing the MassTrails Program, the Trails Team is continuing other efforts to develop a unified network of trails across the Commonwealth. The Trails Team has doubled the amount of federal Recreational Trails Program funding distributed in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 over recent years, addressed the permitting of trail projects at the state and local levels, leveraged partnerships with public and private-sector entities, and aligned resources to assist municipalities with the full range of trail issues.
These resources (which are now available on the MassTrails website) include a planning primer on moving a path project from a vision to a reality and a cost estimator tool and accompanying guidance document that helps approximate the cost of a shared-use path project. Additionally, the Trails Team will soon provide a Shared-Use Path Planning and Design Guide which will cover path planning, feasibility, design criteria, engineering, construction, and maintenance.
MassDOT’s 5-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP) also sets aside $160 million for multi-use pathways as well as $60 million for high-priority projects through the Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Plans that are currently being completed. Other efforts to strengthen multimodal transportation include the Administration’s Complete Streets Funding Program, which has awarded over $30 million to municipalities throughout the Commonwealth to build pedestrian and bicycle accommodations.