2019 environment and transportation legislative agenda announced
January 8, 2019
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced his environment and transportation legislative package, the second of four legislative packages the City of Boston will be submitting to the Massachusetts Legislature. The six-bill package will strengthen the Commonwealth's commitment to the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and the City's goals to be carbon neutral by 2050. Mayor Walsh's legislative agenda builds upon the work of the Administration to ensure equity, opportunity and resilience for all residents by strengthening current systems and creating new tools to adapt, mitigate and invest in local transportation and the environment.
"Addressing the threat of climate change and making sure we keep up with our transportation needs goes beyond city limits. That's why we must work together with the Massachusetts Legislature on issues of climate mitigation and adaptation, and do everything we can to address congestion and increase safety in our streets," said Mayor Walsh. "I'm proud to propose legislation that will explore incentives to reduce pollution and create a statewide vehicle to work on resiliency projects, as well as proposals that would provide investment in transportation infrastructure."
Mayor Walsh's second legislative package of the year focuses on Boston's shared commitment and leadership with the Commonwealth to be robust environmental stewards, strengthening our ability to address climate change and its impacts. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to be in line with the Paris Agreement while preparing for rising sea levels and extreme weather events is a shared responsibility that requires immediate legislative action. To that end, the environmental bills proposed seek to create a statewide vehicle to work on resiliency projects and explore market incentives to reduce pollution.
This work builds on Mayor Walsh's recent vision plan for a Resilient Boston Harbor. This comprehensive and transformative vision calls for investing in Boston's waterfront to protect against the impacts of rising sea level and climate change. The Mayor's plan lays out strategies along Boston's 47-mile shoreline that will increase access and open space along the waterfront while better protecting the city during a major flooding event.
The City has already completed segments of the Resilient Boston Harbor plan through district-level projects in East Boston, Charlestown, and South Boston. These projects led to immediate action along the East Boston Greenway where a deployable flood wall was installed last year, an elevated section of Main St. in Charlestown was added to the design of the City's Rutherford Ave. and Sullivan Square project, the ongoing planning for Moakley Park in South Boston to prepare it for coastal and stormwater flooding, and the construction of Martin's Park in the Seaport, which is expected to be completed this year.
Most recently the City, in partnership with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), submitted its proposal for a $10 million FEMA pre-mitigation grant to begin resilience work along the Fort Point Channel. As the City continues to make strides towards building a more climate-ready Boston, it will begin its next district-level planning project for the Downtown and North End neighborhoods early this year and begin the same work in Dorchester later this year.
Furthering strengthening Mayor Walsh's commitment to protecting Boston against rising sea levels and climate change, the City is accelerating its progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The City of Boston is committed to being carbon neutral by 2050. Early this year the City will begin the process to update its Climate Action Plan. The update will provide an implementation roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality in Boston, identifying the immediate next steps Boston must take to reach its goals. Most recently the City rolled out its regulation of single-use plastic bags, encouraging all customers to switch to reusable bags when shopping in Boston and help move the City toward zero waste. The City also took a big step forward in implementation of Community Choice Energy by seeking proposals from qualified consultants to develop a municipal energy aggregation program and by convening a community-led working group to inform the program design.
As a leading city on climate action, the City was named a winner of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge as Boston works to strengthen and accelerate its progress toward reducing carbon emissions. The City will receive a support package, valued at up to $2.5 million, to increase low-carbon mobility choices and improve energy performance of Boston's building sector.
"Massachusetts residents are already feeling the impacts of climate change, from hotter summers to increased coastal flooding and heavier rainfall. Our research has shown that to address these challenges and protect vulnerable communities, we need partnership among local, regional and state government," said Rebecca Herst, Executive Director of the Sustainable Solutions Lab at UMass Boston. "We applaud Mayor Walsh for proposing a comprehensive approach to protect communities throughout the Commonwealth and encourage better governance for all."
"We applaud the Mayor's Regional Commission for a Climate Ready Commonwealth that will tackle the very tough issues of how to organize, finance and prioritize our critical responses to climate change. Mayor Walsh continues to recognize that the time is now and we need to work together to meet the challenge," said Kathy Abbott, President and CEO of Boston Harbor Now.The environmental bills in the Mayor's legislative package include:
An Act to Establish a Commission for a Climate Ready Commonwealth: would create a regional commission to determine which entity should lead major coastal and inland resiliency projects, how such projects might be funded and how those projects should be prioritized. Boston is not alone in facing the threat of climate change, and all communities are experiencing the reality of extreme heat, snow, rain, and flooding. As the impacts increase and intensify, it's more important now than ever before to coordinate investments to adapt infrastructure and our natural and built environment to future climate conditions.
An Act to Modernize our Natural Gas Infrastructure: would impose a fine on natural gas providers for the total volume of all gas leaks, incentivizing the utility companies to update their infrastructure and providing revenue for climate-ready municipal projects. Natural gas is a powerful greenhouse gas and significant contributor to climate change. The City of Boston and all other cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth have outdated and aging natural gas infrastructure. Gas leaks not only harm the environment but are a public safety issue, public health concern, and financial burden to ratepayers.
As Boston's population continues to grow, with projected growth to reach almost 760,000 people by the year 2030, Mayor Walsh is proposing four transportation bills aimed at efficiently supporting residents by providing investment in transportation infrastructure, reducing carbon emissions from motor vehicles, and providing for safer streets.
The bills further goals established in Go Boston 2030, the City of Boston's comprehensive transportation plan. Execution of the plan is well underway with action being taken on more than half of the 58 projects and policies identified. These initiatives work to reduce traffic, encourage travel by transit, bike and on foot, and ensure safety and access equitably for all users of Boston's streets.
Examples include partnering with the MBTA to promote the use of public transit by establishing a dedicated bus lane on a section of Washington Street in Roslindale that serves eight different bus lines carrying thousands of passengers daily; incorporating new techniques and upgraded equipment into roadway projects to advance our Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries in Boston by 2030; and working to build a network of low stress, strategically placed, separated or buffered bike lanes to allow for safe travel by bike throughout Downtown and Boston's neighborhoods.
"Mayor Walsh's legislative agenda is comprehensive and future-oriented," said Marc Draisen, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. "It includes incentives to address climate and transportation issues, as well as penalties for behavior that stands in the way of progress. We are particularly pleased that the City of Boston will support Regional Ballot Initiatives to generate revenue for critical improvements in our transportation infrastructure. This is a major source of revenue for roads and transit around the country, and we need this tool in Massachusetts too."The transportation bills in the Mayor's legislative package include:
An Act to Allow Regional Ballot Initiatives: would allow cities and towns in Massachusetts to work together to pass taxes that would be used to fund specific transportation projects.
An Act to Promote Safe Streets and Reduce Congestion: would allow photo enforcement for school buses with cameras to capture violations when the STOP arm is deployed and for addressing Blocking the Box traffic violations. This bill is part of a broader road safety legislative agenda, which includes support of previously-filed bills related to sideguards on trucks and cell phone use while driving.
An Act to Allow Parking Assessments for Infrastructure Investment: would allow cities and towns to add an assessment to spaces in private parking garages, to be used to build and maintain roads and bridges, as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
An Act to Update Transportation Network Company Assessments: would update the existing TNC legislation to better align it with the State's and City's climate and mobility goals. In particular, it would create a lower assessment for shared trips, a higher assessment for solo trips, and encourage walking, biking and transit as primary modes of travel.
For more information on the City's transportation work, please visit the Transportation Department's website.