MPO Meeting Minutes
Draft Memorandum for the Record
Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization Meeting
November 19, 2020, Meeting
10:00 AM–11:20 AM, Zoom Video Conferencing Platform
David Mohler, Chair, representing Stephanie Pollack, Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)
The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) agreed to the following:
See attendance on pages 14–15.
D. Mohler updated the MPO board on the Allston Multimodal project. He stated that Secretary Pollack made a presentation yesterday to the Joint Finance and Audit and Capital programming subcommittees of the MassDOT board. She announced that MassDOT is not choosing a preferred alternate at this time, but is continuing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) process. MassDOT is beginning the development of a finance plan as there is not yet the revenue to pay for the $1.3 billion project, and MassDOT is looking for revenue from other parties. D. Mohler noted that there may come a time for discussions with the MPO about federal funding for this project. There has not been a funding level determined nor determination that it is actually going to be required. This was publicly stated in a PowerPoint deck yesterday at the Joint Finance and Audit Committee meeting.
Brian Kane (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority [MBTA] Advisory Board) asked about the South Side Maintenance Facility and how that fits in. D. Mohler replied that the South Side Maintenance Facility is roughly $300 million. D. Mohler stated, the reason we are talking about the South Side Maintenance Facility in relation to the Allston Project is that two of the three alternatives would require the closure of the Grand Junction Bridge for an extended period of time. The closure of the bridge means trains on the south side would have to take a 100-plus mile detour to get to the maintenance facility on the north side. This would have to be done on a weekend or week basis but we certainly cannot take a 100-mile detour for each train going from the south side to the north side for a period of five to six years. MassDOT would be required to build a South Side Maintenance Facility if one of the alternatives is chosen. The $300 million will not come from the MBTA budget, but will come from new resources. Depending on which alternative MassDOT chooses, the cost is somewhere between $1.3 million and $1.9 million for one alternative and $1.6 million for the other. The South Side Maintenance Facility would only be constructed to accommodate the Allston project.
B. Kane replied that he would appreciate more information. D. Mohler said it would not be a problem.
Heather Hamilton (At-Large Town) (Town of Brookline) asked what the implications would be for not choosing a preferred alternative. She asked a question on whether this would put the project on hold or work on all three alternatives at the same time. D. Mohler replied that choosing a preferred alternative would have allowed MassDOT to begin preliminary permitting-at-risk for both federal and state permitting while working on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS is required to analyze all three alternatives, and MassDOT would have selected a preferred alternative pending final approval in the DEIS. What this now means is that MassDOT will not select the preferred alternative until the conclusion of the DEIS. The project is not paused; however, early permitting work on an alternative is not currently happening. He stated that he would provide the PowerPoint deck and the MPO staff can post it. MassDOT is still trying to manage the NEPA and MEPA process while not selecting a preferred alternative. There is a chance that the construction and permitting could be extended up to a year. MassDOT is continuing to do the DEIS, a finance plan, and developing the traffic and transportation mitigation plan.
Eric Bourassa (Metropolitan Area Planning Council [MAPC]) asked if the Soldiers Field Hybrid is being dropped from the DEIS. D. Mohler replied that it is not being dropped; however, the presentation made it clear that the Soldiers Field Hybrid had little support from the public and has significant issues and impacts related to long-term permitting and the Charles River. The PowerPoint deck clearly downplays the possibility that Soldiers Field Road would be selected as the preferred, nonetheless, it is one of the three alternatives being analyzed. It will get a full and fair analysis in the DEIS comparable to the other two alternatives.
T. Teich introduced herself to the new members of the MPO and welcomed Peter Pelletier (South West Advisory Planning Committee) (Town of Medway) and Heather Hamilton and Todd Kirraine (At-Large Town) (Town of Brookline).
She noted that the MPO staff are planning two “MPO 101” orientation sessions, one in December and one in January. The intent is to support board members to better understand and engage in the MPO’s role of regional transportation planning. She stated that there is a poll in the chat and also an email to be sent to finalize the dates and times for these sessions. Please contact Róisín Foley at email@example.com or 857.702.3704 with any questions.
T. Tegin commented on the new CTPS website page to help answer some of the more common questions about the role of the MPO and CTPS. This can be found at bostonmpo.org/faq.
CTPS attended two MAPC subregional meetings last week
regarding the TIP and United Planning Work Program (UPWP) opportunities,
and heard subregional priority updates from municipal members. There was
also a South Shore Coalition meeting hosted by MAPC. Staff is presenting at the
North Shore Task Force this morning and will be presenting at the Three Rivers Interlocal
Council (TRIC) and South West Advisory Planning Committee in December. Staff hosted
a third meeting of the Transit Working Group with a good turnout. MAPC shared
information about a new taxi livery partnership grant program. T. Teich noted a virtual meeting on the Community Connections
Investment Program was held and well attended. She also mentioned the public meetings with MBTA’s Forging Ahead initiatives began this
T. Teich also noted that staff will be asking the MPO to vote to approve the meeting minutes for the October 1 board meeting. She wanted to highlight that these minutes are important and substantive since the minutes include the approval of the new TIP criteria, which is one of the key tools used to select projects for funding in the TIP, and the definition and policies for the Major Infrastructure program. As a reminder, the Major Infrastructure definition is used to identify and categorize TIP projects that qualify in the “Major Infrastructure program” category, based on project type and cost thresholds, as the board has approved. Staff also use the categorization to understand how the board’s selected projects meet the funding goals established in the Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). Basically, there is a certain percentage of money that the MPO sets as a goal for spending in this and other categories. The OTHER policies for the Major Infrastructure program will be applied during LRTP development and include the types of projects to be listed in the LRTP, and then the scoring and programming of the listed projects.
T. Tegin noted the agenda items for the next meeting on December 3, 2020, would include three work scopes for approval, FFYs 2021–25 TIP Amendment Two, and a presentation of work on an MPO-funded study called Trip Generation Rates.
There were none.
E. Bourassa stated that there was a UPWP Committee meeting this morning focused on updating the scope to Phase Two of the Access to Commercial Business District study based on the COVID-19 situation. MPO staff will use this information to put a scope together and return it the MPO board for approval.
There were none.
A motion to approve the minutes of the meeting of October 1, 2020, was made by MAPC (E. Bourassa) and seconded by the MetroWest Regional Collaborative (City of Framingham) (Thatcher Kezer III). The motion carried.
A motion to approve the minutes of the meeting of October 15, 2020, was made by MAPC (E. Bourassa) and seconded by the Inner Core Committee (City of Somerville) (T. Bent). Tina Cassidy abstained. Peter Pelletier abstained. The motion carried.
M. Genova stated that Amendment One includes changes to three highway projects, all funded using statewide funding. This amendment does not impact the projects directly funded using the MPO’s discretionary Regional Target funds. A version of the amendment table is posted to the MPO’s meeting calendar under today’s date.
Beginning with project #610843, Interstate Pavement Preservation in MassDOT Highway District 4, this project is programmed in FFY 2021 and saw a cost increase of roughly $2.8 million as it advanced through the design process and a more detailed cost estimate was produced.
Along with this cost increase comes a handful of funding decreases in the FFYs 2021–25 TIP. In FFY 2021, both the North Washington Street Bridge in Boston and the Route 107 Bridge over the Saugus River in Lynn and Saugus, saw programmed amounts in the TIP come down. For the Route 107 project, further cost decreases are also included in both FFYs 2022 and 2023.
These cost decreases in TIP funding are the result of two different funding mechanisms. First, for the FFY 2021 portion of the funding for the Route 107 bridge, a portion of this project’s cost is being funded using FFY 2020 redistribution funds. These are funds that typically become available late in the FFY and are the result of other states around the country leaving a portion of federal highway formula funding unspent. MassDOT is usually the recipient of these funds from other states. This additional funding is especially useful in accelerating the funding schedule for projects that have advance construction timelines over multiple FFYs, which is the case for this project.
For the other decreases, including the FFY 2021 funding for the North Washington Street Bridge and the FFY 2022 and FFY 2023 funding for the Route 107 bridge, these programmed amounts are being reduced in this TIP because a portion of these costs were covered using MassDOT’s remaining FFY 2020 statewide obligation authority. These were funds in FFY 2020 that were left unallocated to other projects.
Pending a vote by this board, Amendment One will be released for a 21-day public review period. After consideration of any public comments received, this amendment would be on track for a final endorsement vote at the December 17 MPO meeting.
L. Diggins (Regional Transportation Advisory Council) asked if there are overall cost increases that are not seen because we are seeing the overall cost come down due to the contribution from the federal funds. M. Genova replied he was not aware of any baseline cost increases in the other two projects in this amendment. The only cost increase is to the Interstate Pavement Preservation project.
Daniel Amstutz (At-Large Town) (Town of Arlington) asked for clarification on the Route 107 Bridge Project. He said the cost of the project is not changing, but where the source of money is coming from or from what year. M. Genova replied, that is correct. This amendment is from the FFYs 2021–25 TIP and captures the allocated funds in those five FFYs. By some fiscal funding being brought forward from 2020, this is not an actual change in the cost but a timeline of funding.
B. Kane (MBTA Advisory Board) stated that yesterday, the MassDOT Capital Programs Committee (CPC) recommended the MassDOT board approve this project and wondered how the timing on this works if the funds for the project are still the subject of a TIP amendment. D. Mohler replied that the CPC was presented with the construction contract for the bridge in Lynn and Saugus. The money was programmed in 2020–21, and maybe 2023–24. It was advertised in 2020 with the amount programmed in the TIP over multiple years. Project bids were received, and the contract will be awarded at the MassDOT board meeting on Monday, assuming the board agrees with the CPC recommendation. The contract amount remains the same as the funds allocated to the project in the TIP, but MassDOT moved forward some of the project funding from year two into year one because MassDOT obtained additional funding at the end of last FFY, and therefore had funding available to prepay some of the project cost.
Ken Miller (Federal Highway Administration [FHWA]) added a point of clarification that funding must be authorized before the project is advertised, but the awarding of the contract always lags behind the federal authorization of funds for the project. There is a process at the end of every fiscal year where any unused federal funds, whether by FHWA’s federal highway program offices or other states, go into a pot and that funding is redistributed into different states that have projects ready to go and can use it. It is assumed that Massachusetts will get a $50 million redistribution every year. FHWA always encourages MassDOT to request as much as possible, and last year they requested $85 million, which they received. This means that, in effect, MassDOT received an additional $35 million at the end of last year over and above the $50 million they typically request. This allowed them to prepay some future funding obligations early. It was not money that was moved around but money that was received at the end of the FFY allowing the project’s funding schedule to move forward.
Steve Olanoff (TRIC) (Town of Norwood/Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce) asked if MPO staff could change the amendment table to read “change in source of funding” instead of “cost decrease,” as the current language may be confusing to the public. M. Genova replied he would add some language to clarify.
L. Diggins asked why there was such a large increase in cost in pavement preservation. It seems like a big underestimate.
John Bechard (MassDOT) responded that MassDOT has a
long-range pavement model that determines the schedule of pavement preservation
projects. As projects were being scheduled for the 2020–21 pavement program, MassDOT realized that
multiple upcoming pavement projects were in close proximity to
each other in District 4. MassDOT expanded the scope of the original project to
allow multiple sections of the interstate to be addressed through one contract,
making the overall projects more efficient.
A motion to release the FFYs 2021–25 TIP Amendment One for a 21-day public comment period was made by MAPC (E. Bourassa) and seconded by the Inner Core Committee (City of Somerville) (Tom Bent). The motion carried.
M. Genova gave an overview of this year’s TIP development timeline and the key decisions made in last year’s TIP. He spoke about the project development process and provided a summary of the TIP universe. He noted that MPO staff will continue to gather information on prospective TIP projects over the next few weeks before beginning project scoring in mid-December.
M. Genova explained that the process begins with the FFY on October 1, 2020. MPO staff have made connections with 97 cities and towns confirming a main point of contact. He noted there have been a few general information sessions and more than a dozen one-on-one conversations with municipalities and transit operators.
He mentioned that throughout October and November, MPO staff collect data on projects that are in the pipeline to be scored this year, a process that will continue until mid-December. On December 17, MassDOT will host the final Project Review Committee meeting prior to TIP programming this year. All non-transit projects to be considered for TIP funding from the MPO, must be approved by the Project Review Committee prior to being evaluated.
Project evaluations will begin in mid-December and carry through mid-January, at which point the draft scores are sent to project proponents for review. This is a critical part of the process, ensuring every project is scored accurately and all proponents understand the scores.
M. Genova noted that MassDOT hosts TIP readiness days in February, with cost and readiness updates provided on all currently programmed projects. These are shared with the MPO members in early March. In February, staff will also present final project scores to the MPO board.
By the end of March, staff will arrive at a final draft list of projects. That draft list will be incorporated into the full TIP report, released for public comment in late April. After a 21-day public comment period, all feedback on the TIP will be brought to the MPO for consideration before taking a final vote to endorse the TIP in late May.
M. Genova mentioned the decisions made in last year’s TIP. The MPO board elected to fund one Complete Streets project—the reconstruction of Woburn Common; one Intersection Improvement project at Route 3 and Bedford Road in Woburn and Burlington; and one bicycle and pedestrian project—the Independence Greenway connector over Route 1 in Peabody.
Last year was also the launch of the MPO’s Community Connections program, through which five projects were funded, including transit signal priority on Concord Avenue in Cambridge and at Davis Square in Somerville; bicycle parking on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail at the Concord commuter rail station; new shuttle service in Newton; and a marketing budget for a carpool program in Sharon.
One of the major themes from last year was cost overruns for already-programmed projects, which severely limited the board’s ability to consider funding for new projects, leaving a host of projects that were scored for funding by the MPO but not included in the TIP.
Every project to be considered for TIP funding through the MPO starts with conversations between a project proponent and both MassDOT highway district project development staff and MPO staff. All proponents are encouraged to reach out to both parties early to discuss preliminary design ideas and confirm that the project in question is a good fit for the TIP, and aligns with MPO goals and priorities. Assuming a project is deemed a good candidate for the TIP, project proponents will then fill out a project need form outlining the basic reasoning for why the project is being pursued. This process takes place through MaPIT, MassDOT’s online project initiation tool. MassDOT highway district staff reviews this and approves it, and then the proponent will proceed to fill out the project initiation form. This form goes into more detail on how the project will address the needs outlined in the project need form.
Once both of these forms are completed, the project can then be approved by MassDOT’s Project Review Committee (PRC). This is a necessary step before projects can be considered for TIP funding. Once PRC approval is complete, a project is assigned a project number and a MassDOT project manager, who will continue to work with the proponent to move the project forward. From there, the project can enter the universe of projects and be actively considered for funding in the TIP.
Creating this year’s TIP universe began with last year’s universe, removing any programmed or deactivated projects, then adding to and refining that list with input from municipal TIP contacts, MassDOT highway district staff, and MassDOT’s Office of Transportation Planning.
Through several virtual meetings with subregional groups, new projects and needs were discussed.
Some projects in the TIP universe are listed as “Pre-PRC” in the design status and are projects mentioned directly from municipalities. Those listed as “Pre-PRC” are included as projects that may pursue funding in future TIP cycles. These projects cannot be actively considered for funding until they have first gone through the initiation process and been approved by the PRC.
Similar to the breakdown of projects in the current TIP, more than half of the projects in the universe are Complete Streets projects. There are also 16 Intersection Improvement projects and eight bicycle and pedestrian projects in the universe, along with 11 Major Infrastructure projects, three of which are currently programmed in the LRTP. Across subregions, there is quite a bit of variation in the number of projects included in the universe.
In the last five TIP universes, the total number of projects in any given year has fluctuated between 100 on the high end and just under 70 on the low end. Over the last two years, MassDOT has made a significant effort to deactivate projects that were initiated several years ago and are no longer active priorities.
M. Genova stated the
universe is very much a working document that continues to evolve throughout
the year as new projects are initiated and other projects are funded. Some
projects are not yet approved by MassDOT’s PRC, although there are a handful
that are seeking approval and may enter the scoring process for this year. Only
a subset of projects on this list will be scored—those that are PRC-approved
and are active priorities to move forward. The scoring list will include the 12
projects that MPO staff scored last year but were unable to fund due to
Because of recently
finalized revisions to the TIP scoring criteria, all projects that were scored
last year but not funded will be rescored this year using the new criteria.
This will put all projects under consideration for funding this year on the
same footing in terms of project evaluations.
Connections projects are sourced through an open call application process
rather than the more formal TIP project initiation process, so those projects
are not included in the TIP universe.
Over the next few
weeks, MPO staff will continue to talk with municipalities and gather project
information on projects that want to be considered this year. The deadline to
submit all of that information is December 11, 2020, which
applies to both Community Connections projects and other TIP projects.
From there, project
scoring will begin, until roughly the third week in January, at which point
project proponents will be able to review the scores and provide feedback if
there is anything MPO staff missed.
A motion to adjourn was made by the MBTA Advisory Board (B. Kane) and seconded and MAPC (E. Bourassa). The motion carried.
At-Large City (City of Everett)
At-Large City (City of Newton)
At-Large Town (Town of Arlington)
At-Large Town (Town of Brookline)
City of Boston (Boston Planning &
City of Boston (Boston Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Federal Transit Administration
Inner Core Committee (City of Somerville)
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
MassDOT Highway Division
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Massachusetts Port Authority
MBTA Advisory Board
Metropolitan Area Planning Council
MetroWest Regional Collaborative (City of
Erika Oliver Jerram
Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal
Coordination (Town of Acton)
North Shore Task Force (City of Beverly)
North Suburban Planning Council (City of
Regional Transportation Advisory Council
South Shore Coalition (Town of Rockland)
South West Advisory Planning Committee
(Town of Medway)
Three Rivers Interlocal Council (Town of
Norwood/Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce)
MassDOT Highway Division
Project Manager, Boston Planning
and Development Agency
Regional Transit Authority
City of Quincy
Staff/Central Transportation Planning Staff
Tegin Teich, Executive Director
The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning
Organization (MPO) operates its programs, services, and activities in
compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws including Title VI of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), the Civil Rights Restoration Act of
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consistent with federal interpretation and administration. In addition, the
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activities to individuals with limited English proficiency, in compliance
with U.S. Department of Transportation policy and guidance on federal
Executive Order 13166.
The Boston Region MPO also complies with the
Massachusetts Public Accommodation Law, M.G.L. c 272 sections 92a, 98, 98a, which
prohibits making any distinction, discrimination, or restriction in admission
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A complaint form and additional information can be
obtained by contacting the MPO or at http://www.bostonmpo.org/mpo_non_discrimination. To request this
information in a different language or in an accessible format, please
Title VI Specialist