MPO Meeting Minutes
Memorandum for the Record
Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization Meeting
November 21, 2019 Meeting
10:00 AM–12:30 PM, State Transportation Building, Conference Rooms 2 and 3, 10 Park Plaza, Boston
Steve Woelfel and David Mohler, Chairs, 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 15 and 16.
There were none.
There was none.
P. Regan stated that the A&F Committee would meet directly after the MPO meeting in the conference room at the offices of the Central Transportation Planning Staff (CTPS).
L. Diggins reported that the Advisory Council recently heard presentations from both Kate White, MPO staff, regarding public outreach, and Tegin Teich, CTPS Executive Director, regarding her goals in her new role. The Advisory Council also discussed the proposed MPO Transit Committee and some of the Advisory Council’s concerns about the possible intersection of Transit Committee and Advisory Council work. The Advisory Council would like to have more substantive conversations with Michelle Scott, MPO staff, regarding the Transit Committee.
T. Teich summarized the presentation on the proposed Transit Committee given by M. Scott at the MPO meeting on November 7, 2019, and asked the board for further clarification on the direction staff should take. In the presentation, staff recommended that the MPO not immediately create a seat on the board for a Transit Committee representative, but rather hold transit working group meetings until September 2020. This would provide a forum for coordination that would be valuable to stakeholders. T. Teich proposed that staff move forward with a transit working group pilot. The board would need to follow up separately on whether it wants to revise its November 2018 vote regarding direct representation for the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) and the Cape Ann Transportation Authority (CATA) on the MPO board, which created a seat for a transit committee to be held by MWRTA for the first three years. No MPO members voiced an objection. S. Woelfel confirmed that staff should move forward.
T. Teich continued that staff would like to move the January meeting dates from January 2, 2019, and January 16, 2019, to January 9, 2019, and January 23, 2019. Barring any objections, the staff will make these changes.
T. Teich acknowledged new members at the table and those that have expressed interest in an “MPO 101” or introductory meeting about the MPO. MPO staff will be reaching out to board members to schedule that discussion.
T. Teich added that it is time for staff to compile updated designee letters for all members of the board and stated that staff would be reaching out to obtain these letters.
A motion to approve the minutes of the meeting of October 3, 2019, was made by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) (Eric Bourassa) and seconded by the North Suburban Planning Council (City of Woburn) (Tina Cassidy). North Shore Task Force (City of Beverly) (Aaron Clausen) abstained. The motion carried.
M. Genova presented the FFYs 2021–25 TIP Universe of Projects and shared a timeline of the TIP development process for this year. The deadline for MPO staff to receive project information from proponents is December 4, 2019. After this date, staff will move into project scoring. In January, staff will share initial scores with project proponents. Staff will present initial scores to the board on February 6, 2020. On February 20, 2020, staff will present revised project scoring to the MPO based on board discussion and proponent feedback, followed by several conversations with the MPO in March around project readiness. Staff will create a draft slate of programming by late March for MPO approval. The draft TIP will be released for public review in April and endorsed by the board in May. This timeline mirrors last year’s process but is subject to adjustment based on the MPO meeting schedule. The Universe of Projects lists all eligible projects included in last year’s Universe, excluding the projects that had been programmed. The list was refined through conversations with municipal TIP contacts, MassDOT Highway District representatives, MassDOT’s Office of Transportation Planning, and MAPC subregional groups.
The table posted to the MPO meeting calendar lists all projects currently eligible for evaluation this year. The Universe is broken down by MAPC subregion and project type. Projects that were evaluated last year but not funded are highlighted in green, while projects that are new this year are highlighted in orange. Projects in white were in the universe last year and remain so this year. More than half of the projects in the Universe are Complete Streets projects. There are 12 intersection improvement projects, six bicycle and pedestrian projects, and 15 major infrastructure projects, five of which are currently programmed in the MPO’s Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Destination 2040.
The universe is an evolving document and will change as staff continue conversations with MassDOT and project proponents. Some projects in the table are not yet approved by MassDOT’s project review committee (PRC), a necessary step to be programmed in the TIP. There is a PRC meeting on December 19, 2019.
In addition to the standard TIP project selection process, the upcoming TIP will program the first set of projects within the MPO’s Community Connections program. The Community Connections program focuses on first- and last-mile connections and has $2 million set aside, beginning in FFY 2021.
The initial round of the program is a pilot round. Staff sent an application to proponents listed in the Universe of Community Transportation Projects. The intent is to review the program after the initial funding round and make adjustments as needed. Applications are due December 6, 2019. Staff have been speaking with eight project proponents who currently have applications under way. Draft applications include several shuttle programs, two small-scale bike and pedestrian projects, a transit wayfinding project, and marketing support for a Transportation Network Company partnership. Staff will then score projects and present them at the February 6, 2019, meeting.
The TIP and Community Connections program processes will closely mirror each other. The Community Connections program will also be part of the TIP programming conversations later this spring. Staff will continue to update the TIP database.
E. Bourassa asked M. Genova to confirm the funding that the MPO has available this year. M. Genova stated that the MPO has roughly $112 million in funding to allocate each year for the FFYs 2021–25, but some of that money is already allocated to projects in FFYs 2021–24.
Marie Rose (MassDOT Highway Division) asked about staff outreach to project proponents. M. Genova responded that the initial Universe was sent to all municipal TIP contacts. At least one person in each of the MPO’s 97 municipalities has received this information. Staff have had many follow up conversations with project proponents and hosted three conference calls with TIP contacts and MassDOT Highway District representatives in October. M. Rose asked whether inclusion in the TIP table indicates a project is a municipal priority. M. Genova clarified that not all projects have been cited by municipalities as priorities. If staff do not hear that a project is an active priority, the project will not be scored. M. Rose noted that some projects listed are 20 years old, which means the projects would need to be resubmitted to the PRC, adding that MassDOT is trying to weed out projects that are no longer supported by the municipality. MassDOT now requires that municipalities have a designer under contract within two years of PRC approval and have design funding. M. Rose suggested that the MPO follow this process for older projects in the Universe.
M. Rose also expressed the opinion that infrastructure projects or those requiring construction of a bike or pedestrian path should not be eligible for Community Connections program funding due to the number of state and federal requirements for infrastructure projects. M. Rose stated that the number of requirements would be onerous for projects receiving only a small amount of funding.
Jay Monty (At-Large City) (City of Everett) noted that many of the projects in the Community Connections program listed in the Universe are infrastructure projects. M. Rose reiterated that she recommends the MPO not fund those through the Community Connections program. M. Genova clarified that this list of projects came out of the Destination 2040 Needs Assessment; that the first year of the program is in a pilot round; and staff are still working out what is feasible.
J. Monty noted that since the two Everett projects are infrastructure projects, the municipality would like to know if it should still pursue funding if MassDOT does not recommend the MPO fund the projects. M. Rose asked that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) indicate that the MPO would be allowed to use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds for these projects without MassDOT acting as a middleman. Brandon Wilcox (FHWA) stated that any federal funds would have to be administered by the MassDOT Highway Division.
Note: At this point in the meeting, D. Mohler assumed the Chair’s seat.
M. Rose clarified that, in her opinion, low-cost projects requiring right-of-way and environmental permitting should not be funded under the Community Connections program due to the staff time required for the project.
L. Diggins asked about the relationship between the TIP universe and MassDOT’s State TIP list, which incorporates Regional Target-funded projects. M. Genova stated that there is some overlap in the process. The MPO’s Universe includes all the projects eligible for MPO funding. Each year, there are always a couple of projects that end up being funded by MassDOT, rather than with Regional Target funds. L. Diggins asked how the MPO can see what MassDOT is considering for funding in the State TIP. M. Rose responded that this list will be developed over the next few months. M. Genova added that many projects in MassDOT’s list do not fall within the MPO’s investment programs.
Tom Bent (Inner Core Committee) (City of Somerville) asked whether the projects listed in the Community Connections program Universe would have to go through the same process if the projects were funded under another TIP program. M. Rose stated that small projects are not worth pursuing for funding with federal funds via any TIP investment program due to the process requirements.
T. Teich stated that MPO staff will discuss this issue further with MassDOT and report back to the board. T. Teich clarified that while staff are moving away from bringing back longstanding unfunded projects year after year, staff do not want to prematurely eliminate projects from the list.
D. Mohler added that MassDOT will devise the Universe of Projects prioritized for funding in the State TIP, which will then dictate the final MPO Universe. If a project is not in the MassDOT project information system, it cannot be programmed. When MassDOT does this, MassDOT will share the list with the MPO and project proponents.
M. Genova provided
an update on ongoing revisions to the TIP project selection criteria. Over the
winter, MPO staff will continue to conduct phase one of public outreach. Staff
will work with MassDOT, the MBTA, regional transit authorities (RTAs), and
others to draft criteria changes for phase two. In the spring, staff will present
draft criteria by Destination 2040 goal
area. By June, staff hope to have the final draft criteria. Phase three will consist
of soliciting public input on the draft criteria and conducting test scoring.
Staff then hope to have a final draft in September 2020, and aim to use the new
criteria in the next TIP cycle starting October 1, 2020.
Staff have launched
two surveys to solicit input on the criteria process. The first survey asks TIP
contacts and other municipal representatives about their experiences using the
TIP criteria and to list any recommendations for changes to the criteria. The
second survey is geared toward the general public. This survey presents 15 general
goals, such as reducing congestion, enhancing pedestrian safety, and improving
air quality, and asks respondents to select top priorities. As of November 20,
2019, staff received five responses to the TIP contact survey and 134 responses
to the public survey. Staff are also conducting in-person versions of the
survey at several community focus group meetings. Staff have attended six
meetings and have three planned in the coming weeks. Finally, staff have been
attending meetings with MAPC subregional groups and have used this opportunity to
discuss TIP criteria in addition to other topics.
Staff have also
continued to work with Transportation for America (T4America) on devising cost-effectiveness
measures and measuring access to jobs and other nonwork destinations. T4America
have sent staff initial recommendations, and is working to test score projects
with destination access. Destination access measures the effect of a project on
a person’s ability to travel between essential destinations like employment and
Staff have also been
working to develop the new investment programs that came out of Destination 2040, including the Transit
Modernization program and the Dedicated Bus Lanes and Resiliency investment
strategies included in the Complete Streets program.
M. Genova outlined
options for next steps and proposed a path forward. Staff could continue to
bring updates on the TIP criteria to full MPO board meetings. This is the
baseline for board involvement. Alternatively, staff could hold more casual
focus groups or workshops with board members. These workshops could take place
before or after MPO board meetings, be open to any members who can attend, and
provide an opportunity for staff to have conversations that are more focused
around board member participation and feedback. Additionally, staff could put
together versions of the two surveys specifically for board members. Staff
could also create a series of more focused surveys around specific topics.
M. Genova proposed
holding some MPO member workshops as early as December, and continuing as
L. Diggins endorsed the idea of focus groups and workshops and suggested an ad hoc committee.
Thatcher Kezer III (MetroWest Regional Collaborative) (City of Framingham) stated that he does not have the capacity to come earlier or stay later after meetings and asked if there could be opportunities to move the workshops into the subregions to make it easier for board members. T. Kezer commented that the biggest challenge to getting projects on the TIP is all of the eligibility requirements. It can be hard for small municipalities to gain and maintain support for actions at the local level during the TIP process. More interaction at the local level would create more successful projects and would waste less time for MPO staff.
J. Monty endorsed TIP criteria workshops. J. Monty asked that there be small groups and strict agendas to focus the discussion.
Tom O’Rourke (Three Rivers Interlocal Council [TRIC]) (Town of Norwood/Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce) shared his appreciation for MPO staff presentations at TRIC subregional meetings and asked that staff return to the subregions once criteria is more developed. T. O’Rourke also endorsed workshops and said that he would be happy to participate.
Jennifer Raitt (At-Large Town) (Town of Arlington) suggested carving out a portion of MPO board meetings for working group-type discussions. Some board members have specific topics that other members are interested or experts in, and it could encourage participation.
Jillian Linnell (MBTA) commented that surveys are helpful in setting up productive focus group conversations.
D. Mohler asked if the recommendations on cost-effectiveness and destination access will be used in the current TIP cycle. M. Genova responded that destination access would be incorporated into the next TIP; however, it is up to the board on whether to incorporate cost-effectiveness. Staff will present T4America’s recommendations on December 19, 2019, and the board could make a decision then.
D. Mohler asked when staff launched the public and TIP contact surveys. M. Genova responded that staff sent the public survey via the MPOinfo email list and posted it to the MPO’s website and social media on November 12, 2019. D. Mohler expressed concern about the low number of TIP contacts responding and stated that M. Genova could let TIP contacts know that the MPO board is interested in who responded and who did not, especially in preparation of project scoring. T. Bent asked M. Genova to let members know who has responded so that board members may encourage others to provide feedback.
L. Diggins asked about the funding source for this work. D. Mohler responded that the funding source is through a Unified Planning Work Program continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive (3C) line item. L. Diggins asked if it was possible to review the discussions that took place when the TIP criteria was last revised. M. Genova replied that staff could look back in meeting records for this information. The bulk of the framework is eight or more years old. L. Diggins expressed interest in metrics that would help the board understand the degree to which the MPO is accomplishing the 3Cs via the TIP process.
E. Bourassa added that some of this work overlaps with the MPO’s Performance-Based Planning and Programming work. In this work, TIP projects are tracked so the MPO may see whether its investments are addressing state and federal performance measures.
A. McGahan presented
an update on the new investment programs adopted as part of Destination 2040, specifically the Transit
Modernization Program and Dedicated Bus Lanes funding added to the Complete
Streets program. A. McGahan also revisited the $20 million cost threshold for
the MPO’s Major Infrastructure program. As part of Destination 2040, the board set a
funding goal of five percent of Regional Target funding for the Transit
Modernization Program and two percent for Dedicated Bus Lanes, as part of the
Complete Streets program. Staff held discussions on whether to include a
specific investment program for resiliency improvements but the board decided
that resiliency should be incorporated into all projects across the investment
programs, where possible.
The specific project types that could be
funded under Transit Modernization include accessibility improvements, station modernization,
parking improvements, infrastructure state of good repair projects, fleet modernization,
and bus maintenance facilities.
Staff contacted the MBTA, MWRTA, and CATA
to gather information on specific projects the agencies would potentially want
to fund under this program. Staff also attended the MAPC subregional meetings
to inform the municipalities about this funding, and reviewed comments MassDOT
and the MBTA received during the Focus 40
outreach process. The handout distributed by A. McGahan at this meeting
included specific projects gathered during this outreach. The suggested projects
include more seating at South and Lechmere stations, building weather protected
waiting areas at commuter rail stations and shelters at bus stops, accessibility
improvements at stations, and improvements to RTA buildings. The MPO discussed
the feasibility of supporting track, signal, and power systems as part of infrastructure
state of good repair, prior to the adoption of Destination 2040.
Staff requests board feedback on whether
the board would like to support these type of projects as part of Transit
Modernization. Staff will use this information to develop project selection
criteria and a project intake process. The funding for Transit Modernization
projects can be programmed starting in FFY 2025.
been coordinating with the MBTA on Dedicated Bus Lane funding. MPO staff are also
providing information at MAPC subregional meetings so municipalities are aware
that this funding is available. The next steps are to continue to coordinate
with the MBTA, continue outreach to subregions, and to develop project
selection criteria within the Complete Streets investment program.
resiliency, staff started research as part of the ongoing update of the LRTP Needs
Assessment. Staff have been cataloging transportation-related recommendations
from the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Program, Municipal Hazard Mitigation
Plans, and climate plans developed by individual municipalities. Staff are also
getting input from municipalities on resiliency issues at MAPC subregional
meetings. The next steps are to coordinate with MassDOT and other MPOs on resiliency
work, continue outreach to subregions, and explore ways to incorporate
resiliency into project selection criteria across all investment programs.
Staff will be coordinating this work with the new Unified Planning Work Program
study on resiliency.
L. Diggins asked about the current criteria for Complete Streets projects, noting that Dedicated Bus Lanes funding might be biased towards the Inner Core subregion. A. McGahan responded that the current Complete Streets criteria evaluates access to transit, and agreed that these projects may be biased towards the Inner Core because there needs to be enough ridership to make a bus lane feasible. L. Diggins advocated for allocating Transit Modernization funds to RTAs to encourage transit use, noting that the Transit Modernization funding amount is small in comparison to the need. A. McGahan responded that there is $30 to $50 million available over the five years of the TIP.
J. Monty commented that it would be helpful to see a list of potential Dedicated Bus Lane projects because the public outreach around these projects can be labor intensive. He stated that the right size project needs to be matched with the right size funding. A. McGahan said that staff are soliciting potential project ideas and are continuing to talk to the MBTA.
A. Clausen asked if communities have time to advocate for specific Transit Modernization projects and criteria. A. McGahan responded that there is time to provide input as staff are just devising an initial Universe of Projects.
D. Mohler noted that the funding becomes available in 2025 and the TIP the MPO will develop this year will program projects in FFYs 2021–25. D. Mohler asked if staff expect that there will be Transit Modernization projects chosen in this TIP cycle or if the MPO should preserve $5 to $6 million in highway funding for Transit Modernization projects in future TIP development cycles. A. McGahan responded that the MPO could either program defined projects or reserve the $5 to 6 million. D. Mohler also noted that Dedicated Bus Lane funding is only available now if the board removes currently programmed projects and frees funding in years earlier than 2025. A. McGahan confirmed.
P. Regan noted that there are other sources of bus lane funding for FFYs 2020–24. The MBTA has a program to implement bus lanes on key routes. The board could find that, by 2025, this funding might be better used for other projects.
D. Mohler noted that the MPO has traditionally struggled to keep funding programmed for undefined projects from being allocated to solve other funding issues. The MPO must make sure its funding policy matches the commitments in Destination 2040. A. McGahan responded that this is what happened with the Community Connections program, where undefined funding was eventually defined in a Unified Planning Work Program study.
Based on past guidance from FHWA, the MPO’s current
definition for a major infrastructure project is one that adds capacity to the
transportation network and/or costs more than $20 million. All major infrastructure
projects must be listed in the LRTP before being programmed in the TIP.
development of Destination 2040, FHWA
informed staff that the only requirement for listing a major infrastructure
project is that it adds capacity to the transportation network. There is no federally
required threshold for cost. Staff used the older definition for Destination 2040 but agreed to revisit
after adoption of the plan. The major infrastructure funding goals adopted as
part of Destination 2040 state that
more than 30 percent of available Regional Target funding in each five year
time band will be allocated to major infrastructure projects, and
one major infrastructure project requires more than 30 percent of funding in a
particular time band, it would not be programmed in the plan.
A. McGahan presented handouts showing projects
funded in the previous plan, Charting Progress
to 2040, and in Destination 2040.
Tables 1 and 3 show projects that would have to be included in major infrastructure
because the projects add capacity to the network. Tables 2 and 4 show projects
in previous plans that cost over $20 million but do not add capacity to the
network. For current Complete Streets projects, there would likely not be much
of an impact on the funding goals that the board set. If the board chooses to
eliminate the cost threshold, staff would reevaluate the investment programs
and goals as part of the next LRTP. Staff would base this reevaluation on the
types and costs of projects that are programmed in the TIP over the next four
E. Bourassa asked if there is a clear example of adding capacity to the network. A. McGahan responded that adding a travel lane to a highway or providing a new connection or transit service is adding capacity.
T. Kezer noted that under these guidelines, if a project costs more than 30 percent of the MPO’s Regional Target funding, the MPO automatically removes the project from consideration. T. Kezer stated that under this policy, a project that solves all the region’s problems might be removed because of cost, adding that the MPO should consider projects on merit rather than removing them based on cost.
D. Mohler noted that major infrastructure funding can also be flexed to transit.
T. O’Rourke stated that he, and the TRIC subregion, are opposed to the $20 million threshold because it does eliminate potentially good projects.
Jim Fitzgerald (City of Boston) (Boston Planning & Development Agency) asked whether adding capacity includes all modes, such as trucks. A. McGahan responded saying that if it is a new connection or lane in the truck network, it counts as adding capacity.
D. Mohler clarified that it does not apply to new connections to the bike and pedestrian network and added that the $20 million threshold is an MPO policy and the board can change it. D. Mohler asked board members if the board should eliminate the $20 million threshold.
A. McGahan clarified that without the threshold, Complete Streets projects that cost more than $20 million do not have to be listed in the LRTP and can go right into the TIP.
D. Mohler asked about the LRTP project in Lynn that costs $36 million but is not yet programmed in the TIP. If the MPO board changed the threshold, the project would come out of the LRTP, and the project would not have the guarantee of being programmed in a specific time band.
E. Bourassa commented that since the board just made commitments on projects in Destination 2040, the board should not make any changes now, but revisit the threshold for the next plan.
P. Regan advocated for keeping the threshold because projects that require a large amount of the funding in a five year band limit the amount of money available for smaller projects. The more money the board spends on a specific project, the less money that is distributed to the 97 communities of the region, and the less money available for a competitive process.
T. Kezer commented that it should be more of a process and not based on threshold. P. Regan responded that he has less of a problem with that than removing the cap entirely.
A. McGahan stated that this can all be assessed when doing the next plan. D. Mohler noted that right now, if the MPO wanted to do a new project in 2025 that cost $46 million, the MPO would have to make an amendment to the LRTP.
Steve Olanoff (TRIC Alternate) asked whether adding auxiliary lanes counts as adding capacity. A. McGahan stated that adding a travel lane is adding capacity.
D. Mohler stated that although there is an explicit policy, CTPS, MassDOT and FHWA also look at projects, and analyze if the projects add capacity to the network.
C. Claude presented the Pedestrian Report Card Assessment (PRCA) Interactive Database. This work builds on the FFY 2015 Pedestrian Level-of-Service (PLOS) Metric project, which created the PRCA tool. The FFY 2015 PLOS study created a performance-monitoring tool addressing pedestrian suitability at intersections and roadway segments. The intent of the FFY 2019 study was to implement the PRCA tool and create an interactive database. PRCA grading categories are shaped by the Destination 2040 goals: safety, system preservation, capacity management and mobility, and economic vitality. The transportation equity goal is incorporated through a prioritization process. C. Claude showed examples of PRCA scorecards and presented the interactive database on the MPO website. C. Claude invited feedback on the tool.
J. Monty asked whether PRCA could be used to analyze the design of TIP projects. C. Claude responded that Seth Asante, MPO staff, has used the PRCA tool to conduct before and after assessments in corridor studies. J. Monty suggested that design consultants could use PRCA to see if projects have the desired outcome.
M. Rose stated that MassDOT could use the tool to prioritize the location of American with Disabilities Act retrofit projects at state highway locations and added that she would share the tool with MassDOT Highway districts.
David Koses (City of Newton) asked why raised crosswalks are included under the economic vitality category rather than safety. C. Claude stated that it is challenging to have more than four performance metrics per category because it can dilute the performance of that measure. Raised crosswalks are important, and if the crosswalks are added to the safety category, it would surpass four. By including this metric in the economic vitality category, the tool can factor in raised crosswalks and still consider it an important measure.
There were none.
A motion to adjourn was made by the MBTA Advisory Board (P. Regan) and seconded by the MassDOT Highway Division (M. Rose). 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 Lexington)
City of Boston (Boston Planning &
City of Boston (Boston Transportation Department)
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
Thatcher Kezer III
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)
City of Quincy
MassDOT Highway District 6
MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA)
Senate President’s Office
Staff/Central Transportation Planning Staff
Tegin Teich, Executive Director