MassTrails Team Announces Study Results

by | May 31, 2021

The Baker-Polito Administration’s MassTrails Team is pleased to announce the release of the Impacts of Shared Use Paths Study which was undertaken to conduct a detailed review of the economic, health, transportation, environmental, safety, accessibility and equity impacts that current shared-use paths have on communities across the Commonwealth. The MassTrails Team is an inter-agency initiative which was created to expand and connect a network of shared use statewide pathways and includes the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“The Study exemplifies the important role that shared-use paths play in the Commonwealth’s comprehensive transportation network to provide safe connections that are easily accessible and efficient,” said Acting Transportation Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler. “MassDOT continues to identify ways in which shared use paths can be developed or incorporated into design plans for statewide projects to facilitate future economic development opportunities, and healthy and environmentally-friendly transportation options.”

“The Impacts of Shared Use Paths Study shows the importance of shared use paths in providing accessible transportation options for residents, reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, creating economic growth and improving the quality of life in communities throughout the Commonwealth,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “The Baker-Polito Administration, through the MassTrails Team, remains committed to investing in accessible paths across Massachusetts to ensure all residents have access to clean transportation options while getting healthy outdoor exercise.”

The study focused on four statewide trails that represented a variety of geographies from the Connecticut River Valley to Cape Cod and from urban to rural. They were the Northern Strand, the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, the Norwottuck section of the Mass Central Rail Trail, and the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The data for the study was collected between July 2019 and October 2019 in order to analyze the health, accessibility and equity, transportation, economic, environmental, and safety impacts of these shared use paths on each respective community.

“This Study highlights the significant benefits from the Baker-Polito Administration’s prioritization of improving our transportation connectivity and accessibility in communities large and small,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. “Shared use paths are an integral part of the statewide transportation network, and we continue to work collaboratively with our partners at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the MassTrails Team, municipalities, and various other stakeholders to help identify new off-road shared use paths, recreational trails, and connections and have developed a framework that provides a streamlined process to deliver smart and impactful projects that aid in the quality of life and economic development across the Commonwealth.”

The key findings from the study are as follows:

Economic: Paths improved the local economy by generating between $378,000 and $9.2 million per path for businesses near the trails during the four-month study period alone.
Health: Paths increased the level of physical activity for those who live nearby, saving a combined $2.8 million on healthcare expenditures across the four paths in 2019.
Transportation: 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.
Environmental: The reduction in motor vehicle trips led to $2.2 million in savings from reductions in the social costs of greenhouse gas and other emissions during the four-month study period.
Accessibility and Equity: Paths connect people with destination and access to opportunities, and broaden who has mobility without having to rely on a car for every trip. The Northern Strand path provides access to 31 essential destinations and has low stress walking and biking connections that can be used by over 8,000 people in elderly or youth age groups, over 3,000 people with a disability, and 2,200 households with no vehicles.

The Impacts of Shared Use Paths Study along with the accompanying Benefits Primer, which highlights key findings of the study, are the latest in a series tools and informative guides provided by the MassTrails Team. The Team, which was created by Governor Baker in 2017, continuously seeks to develop a unified vision for a trails network and translate that into strategic investments and policy innovation to facilitate the development of a connected network of multi-use trails and shared-use paths, across the Commonwealth.

Since 2018, the MassTrails Team has worked to assist individuals, communities, non-profit organizations and advocacy groups with the design, construction, and maintenance of shared use paths. Over that time, more than $15 million in MassTrails grants has been awarded to facilitate the construction and maintenance of a variety of public trails throughout the state trails system, such as hiking trails, and shared-use paths. To date, over 40 miles of trails have been completed statewide.

MassDOT’s 2020-2024 5-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP) sets aside $203.4 million for multi-use pathways as well as $60 million for high-priority bicycle and pedestrian projects to implement the statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Plans.

For detailed information on the Impacts of Shared Use Paths Study, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/guides/benefits-of-shared-use-paths.

Information regarding the interagency MassTrails Team can be found at https://www.mass.gov/welcome-to-masstrails.