The Chapter 90 program is a staple for Municipal Highway and Public Works Departments across Massachusetts. Executives and front-line workers alike are well acquainted with what it does and does not do. However, not all cities and towns are making the most of this critical state funding program.
In July, Governor Baker authorized the level-funded $200 million Chapter 90 program for Fiscal Year 2021. Apportionment amounts for the Commonwealth’s 351 municipalities ranged from nearly $15 million for Boston to $8,826 for the tiny Island community of Gosnold (population: 75) and its 2.0 miles of roads.
Repaving projects are the primary beneficiary of Chapter 90, but some cities and towns use these funds for more ambitious design-related projects. MassDOT’s funding guidelines note that Chapter 90 projects include resurfacing and related work, as well as preliminary engineering (including state aid/consultant design agreements), right-of-way acquisition, roadside drainage, structures (including traffic control and sidewalks), and landscaping.
The effective, creative use of Chapter 90 money can contribute greatly to the livability and desirability of a community for residents, businesses and visitors. But how best to use these vital funds?
“In a lot of cities and towns, the Chapter 90 money is looked at too much as a way to resurface existing roads, and not a source to help improve the overall roadway system,” says David Giangrande, PE, president and CEO of Design Consultants, Inc. “Mayors, Town Managers and DPW Directors should have a comprehensive strategy to optimize their Chapter 90 apportionment, including updating traffic control infrastructure, improving drainage and creating safer, more efficient roadway operations.”
For paving or other traditional roadway repair and preservation projects, Chapter 90 money can help ensure that the project is done right the first time. Too often, poorly executed resurfacing projects fail quickly and require attention far more quickly than they should. By employing qualified, objective engineering professionals to oversee resurfacing projects, a community can help to ensure that the project is completed efficiently and effectively.
“A lot of departments don’t have the staff necessary to monitor these projects during construction, so they don’t always get what they paid for,” says Giangrande. “For example, you need someone with expertise there when a latent condition arises to recommend an appropriate mitigation strategy. ADA compliance is also critical on the sidewalks as you’re paving the streets. You need someone there to check and certify compliance.”
If you’d like to discuss your Chapter 90 strategy with David or any of our roadway engineering experts, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll set up an appointment.