CPA Funding for Rail-Trail Acquisition Included in Governor's Budget

July 21, 2021

On Friday, July 16th, Governor Baker signed the FY2022 budget which included sweeping funding and policy measures that will impact all of the Commonwealth. Included in this budget is a little known, yet crucially important, piece of policy that will help the state build its rail-trail network, specifically helping municipalities fund the acquisition of rights of ways by allowing them to use Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding to purchase federally rail banked rail corridors for the development of trails. CPA funds are municipal taxes collected to be directed by City or Town committees and to be used for the purposes of creating affordable housing, funding historic preservation, and supporting open space for communities. Rail-trails, of course, fall into the category of open space. And this change to the CPA law would clarify that, if a municipality were to choose, they can use CPA funds to acquire rail right-of-way corridors.

This slight clarification of the CPA funding usage is absolutely key in a few places in the commonwealth where municipalities have the intention to spend their own CPA dollars to acquire rail-trail corridors but have faced challenges from opposing arguments using the fact that most rail-trail rights of ways are transferred over with long-term leases (perhaps 99 years) and not in perpetuity, since the National Trails System Act of 1983 stipulated railbanking as a voluntary agreement between a railroad company and a trail agency to use an out-of-service rail corridor as a trail until a railroad might need the corridor again for rail service. This interim trail use of railbanked corridors has preserved thousands of miles of rail corridors that would otherwise have been abandoned, however opponents to rail-trails claim that in the rare case a corridor could, by law, convert back to rail use, then CPA funds can be challenged for this use. However, this has not once happened in Massachusetts where a rail-trail corridor has converted back to rail use.

And as land from rail trails usually comes together in a piecemeal fashion, it’s more of putting together a massive puzzle with pieces placed incongruously throughout the state, which is a difficult task considering the large number of landowners, abutters, and jurisdictions that these corridors impact. A rail-trail network and route is only as good as its weakest link, even if we have 110-miles of a trail planned out, such as the case with the Mass Central Rail Trail which will eventually go from Boston to Northampton, just one missing puzzle piece means we don’t have a contiguous and connected network.

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INVEST Act Passes House: Includes Major Wins for Bicycling

July 16, 2021

The House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 3684– the INVEST Act and it includes some major wins for better bicycling across the country and in Massachusetts. The League of American Bicyclists recently outlined the amendments to the INVEST Act that improve transportation equity and safety. There were some overarching themes within the bill that would bolster bicycling improvement across the country and several bike-friendly projects within Massachusetts are slated for funding thanks to our hard-working elected officials in Washington. 

Increased roadway safety for vulnerable road users was a key concern within the bill. VisionZero was included as part of the safety effort and specifically mentioned a focus on equity and impact on mitigating enforcement concerns for minority and low-income riders. The Safe Routes to Schools program will be expanded to the High School level if the bill is enacted, which means more students across Massachusetts will gain access to bicycling safety instruction.

Climate was called out as a concern within the bill, with money going towards infrastructure projects that would bolster multi-modal transportation options such as bicycling, walking, and public transportation. An electric bicycle definition & classifications, which align with the current e-bike bill we support in Massachusetts, were included and electric bicycles were specifically named in the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program which could enable funding for more e-bike sharing systems.

The INVEST Act also includes funding for several key projects in Massachusetts. Representatives got to include member-designated projects into the bill and Massachusetts Representatives were successful at getting several key trails and complete streets projects in the bill. The Bourne Rail Trail project will receive $14.7 million in funding if the bill is enacted. The funding would be enough to cover the construction of phases 1, 2, and 4 of the trail, which will connect Falmouth’s Shining Sea Bikeway to the Cape Cod Canal. Several other trails projects were included from across the state, like the North Adams Adventure Trail, which will connect the bike trail in Williamstown into downtown North Adams, and Belmont Community Path, a key connector of the Mass Central Rail TrailThank you to our Massachusetts Representatives for including projects that will make bicycling better for every rider across Massachusetts and ensuring that this bill puts transportation equity & safety at the forefront– we're proud to have such great advocates in Washington.

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July MassBike Meet-Up

July 13, 2021
Our MassBike June Meet-Up is on Monday, July 26th at noon, MassBike's Communications Coordinator, Jes, will be chatting about how MassBike can help you get the word out about the bike-friendly work you're doing in your community. Whether it's a new bridge on your local rail-trail (like the bridge on the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail in the photo above) or a community bike rodeo, MassBike wants to help you spread the news of your work statewide. Bring your lunch and come with some bicycling news to share from your community.
Join to learn about:
  • MassBike's Communications
  • Guest Blogging for MassBike
  • How to spread the word about what's happening around bicycling in your community

RSVP

 

MassBike Meet-Ups happen every fourth Monday of the month, these virtual chats fill you in on our work, give you a chance to ask questions, and let us know what you’ve been working on in your community. If you have suggestions for future Meet-Up topics, send them to [email protected]

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Get your Wheels Turning for Bay State Bike Month

July 13, 2021

September’s Bay State Bike Month is approaching and to help you get in gear for the month-long celebration of bicycling across Massachusetts we’ve been working to make sure you have everything you need to plan your best bike month yet. In June, our virtual Monthly Meet-Up covered all things Bay State Bike Month and you can now view the recording on the MassBike YouTube channel. The Bay State Bike Month website now includes an updated Resources page, Events Calendar, & 2021 MassCommute Bicycle Challenge information.

The resources page now hosts our new one-pagers and comprehensive “how-to” guides that outline the basics of planning four popular bike-friendly events. You can check out the guides below to help kick-start & guide your event planning.

One-Pager Guides 

Comprehensive “How-To” Guides

Once you’ve planned your event, we want to help you spread the word! Our Bay State Bike Month Events Calendar is now accepting submissions for all your bike-friendly events happening this September. If you have any questions on how to submit your events or want to add photos to your listing, reach out to [email protected]

Along with all the events hosted by local advocates, Bay State Bike Month will include the 27th annual MassCommute Bicycle Challenge (MCBC) is happening September 19th-26th. You can get a team together with your workplace to compete against other businesses or join the challenge solo. There are two avenues for ride tracking this year, either through your Transportation Management Association’s ride-tracking platform or through MassBike’s Love to Ride Group if you are not part of a Transportation Management Association. Check out our MassCommute Bicycle Challenge page for more detailed information on how to join.

We hope these resources aid your Bay State Bike Month planning. If there are any additional resources you would like to see or if you have any questions, please reach out to us at [email protected]. We can’t wait to roll with you this September.

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Arlington Safe Travel Project Bike Counts - 4 years after Implementation

July 01, 2021

A Guest Post by: Petru Sofio

Four years after the implementation of the Arlington Safe Travel Project, which connected the minuteman bikeway through Arlington Center, the bike path has 70,000 to 90,000 users using the intersection every month. The Safe Travel Project used bicycle lanes, a two-stage turn box, and bicycle protective phasing to connect the two end segments of the minuteman path. To see how this was working, the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee (ABAC) recently completed bike counts at the intersection, specifically focused on the utilization of the bike box. The data collected is crucial as it shows that there is a problem with the current design– it doesn’t meet the needs of the number of cyclists who pass through daily. Personally, in the past, I’ve almost been right hooked here multiple times and even honked at by motorists because the bike box was overflowing and I was blocking traffic because of it. Because of that experience, I jumped at the chance to join ABAC's bike count and do something to improve the intersection.

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July Bike Challenge - Biking Independence

July 01, 2021

Throughout history, bikes have brought a sense of independence to riders of all kinds. Bikes enable freedom of movement, the ability to find new adventures, and help us find some #bikejoy along the way. This July, we want to hear about how you’ve found independence through bicycling

How to Participate:

  • Take a bike ride & snap a photo during your ride
  • Share your story of how your bicycle brings you independence with us! Either tag @MassBike in your biking independence story on social media or email your story & photo to [email protected]

Everyone who participates in our Biking Independence challenge will be entered to win a bike repair kit prize pack. Thanks to our friends at Sadie's Bikes in Turner's Falls, Valley Bike & Ski Werks in Hadley, and Yesteryear Cyclery in New Bedford. 

Make sure you're following MassBike on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter so you can tag us in your biking independence photo. You only need to tag us on one platform to be entered into the challenge & we will comment/respond to your post to verify your entry. If your account is private, we won't be able to see your post. Those who email their photo & biking independence story to [email protected] will be given the option to be featured on the Bay State Bike Month Website.

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June Bike to Parks Round Up

July 01, 2021

In June, we challenged you to bike to a park and share your adventure with us. Cyclists across the state took advantage of our challenge to enjoy the great outdoors by bike. We got submissions from local parks to stories of grand bikepacking adventures and everything in between. Everyone who participated in our Bike to Parks challenge was entered to win an Eno Hammock and straps thanks to their local REI Co-op

The MassBike team was inspired by all the entries we received and added some parks to our "to visit" list. Galen, MassBike's Executive Director, ended June with his own Bike to Parks adventure with MassDOT Secretary Tesler and Steve from the SE Mass NEMBA at Wompatuck State Park in Hingham. After some mountain biking, they checked out the multimodal improvements that connect the park to transit. Wompatuck State Park is easily accessible from the Cohasset Commuter Rail Station thanks to the Whitney Spur Rail Trail. Mass DCR installed some nifty wayfinding signage to make it even easier for riders to navigate between the park and the commuter rail station. 

Below, you'll find some of the great submissions we received throughout June– maybe they'll inspire your next bike to parks adventure since we hope our challenge inspired you to keep rolling to parks & enjoying the best nature has to offer. If you didn't get a chance to take part in our Bike to Parks Challenge, we hope you join our July Bike Challenge & share your biking independence stories with us for a chance to win a bike repair kit from our friends at Sadie's Bikes.

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MassTrails Publishes Benefits of Shared Use Paths Report

June 28, 2021

MassTrails, Governor Baker's team working on our statewide trail network, recently released their Shared Use Path Benefits Primer and Shared Use Paths Impact Study. These resources summarize a study MassTrails did on the impacts of four shared use pathways across the Commonwealth. The study sought to understand how shared use pathways comprehensively affect our communities by looking at their economic, health, transportation, environmental, safety, accessibility, and equity impacts. 

The key findings show that shared use paths come with robust benefits for communities across the commonwealth. They found in terms of transportation that, “During the study period, the shared use paths encouraged over 90,000 active commute trips and reduced motor vehicle travel by over 700,000 miles.” The study only looked at the pathways during a four-month period in 2019–  imagine how many active commute trips could be encouraged through a statewide network of shared use pathways. Advocates across Massachusetts have been discussing the benefits of these paths for a long time and now there is local data to back up our claims.

The Shared Use Path Benefits Primer will be an excellent tool for advocates working to build shared use pathways in their communities. It takes the key study findings and makes them accessible for community members to understand the immense benefits of these pathways. Those who wish to understand the detailed methodology and findings from the study can take a look at the comprehensive report.  

MassTrails has created a very valuable tool for advocates across the commonwealth and we’re grateful for the hard work that went into this comprehensive look at shared use pathway benefits in Massachusetts. Now we can cite local data to support our trails as we seek to connect our statewide network. 

You can access the Shared Use Path Benefits Primer and Shared Use Paths Impact Study at www.mass.gov/guides/benefits-of-shared-use-paths

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June MassBike Meet-Up: How to Bike Month

June 17, 2021

Mark your calendar- this month’s MassBike Meet-Up is happening Monday, June 28th at noon and we’re going to be chatting all things Bay State Bike Month. We’ll be helping you set the groundwork to host well-attended bicycle-friendly events in your community. Attendees will get a sneak peek at our digital resource guides and help shape this year’s Bay State Bike Month celebrations.

Tune in to this virtual chat to learn about:

 

Attendees are highly encouraged to share some of their favorite ways to celebrate Bay State Bike Month and lessons they’ve learned about hosting bicycle-friendly events. Learn more about Bay State Bike Month at www.baystatebikemonth.org.

RSVP 

MassBike Meet-Ups happen every fourth Monday of the month, these virtual chats fill you in on our work, give you a chance to ask questions, and let us know what you’ve been working on in your community.

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Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Pony Truss Bridge & Trail

June 09, 2021

 

Date: Thursday June 17th, 2021, 10 AM
Location: Riverside Park at the Pony Truss Bridge
Followed by a tour of the Pony Truss Trail and planned Greenway improvements.

The Riverside Greenway Working Group is hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Pony Truss Bridge & Trail in Newton on Thursday, June 17th, 2021 at 10 am. The ceremony will be followed by a tour of the Pony Truss Trail and planned Greenway improvements. Please join DCR Commissioner James Montgomery, EEA Assistant Secretary Kurt Gaetner, State Representative Kay Khan, Newton Mayor Ruth Fuller, and the Riverside Greenway Working Group to celebrate the restoration of this historic trail which was completed in March 2021. The Pony Truss Trail restoration was made possible thanks to grants from the Mass DCR Recreational Trails Program and the Solomon Foundation.

According to the Riverside Greenway Working Group, "Since the 1850s the Pony Truss Bridge and Pony Truss Trail brought folks to the banks of the Charles River Lakes District to walk, boat, and enjoy the beauty of the Charles River. The restoration of the bridge in 2013, the trail in 2021, together with planned trail connections over the next few years, will restore the legacy of “The Riverside Recreation Grounds” as part of the Riverside Greenway." 



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