State Agencies, 13 Communities Find Ways to Cut Construction Costs on Mobility

The MBTA, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), Massport, the City of Boston, the City of Cambridge, the City of Somerville, the Town of Brookline, the City of Everett, the Town of Watertown, the City of Quincy, the City of Chelsea, the City of Revere, the City of Medford, the City of Malden, the Town of Arlington, and the City of Lynn last week announced a new collective purchasing agreement for bus and bike lane road markings in order accelerate multimodal infrastructure throughout the metropolitan area.

This collective procurement effort will allow public transportation agencies to cooperate and achieve a greater economy of scale in building projects, ultimately bringing costs down.

“This is another example of the region working together to move everyone forward. Increasingly, we all need to collaborate in new ways to better serve our riders and constituents,” said General Manager Steve Poftak. “This agreement will ensure that public agencies like the MBTA will be using their funds as cost effectively as possible, especially throughout the current public health and economic crisis.”

“Establishing more bus and bike lanes is critical for the region as we continue to re-open the economy during this pandemic,” said MAPC Transportation Director Eric Bourassa. “By reducing costs for the MBTA as well as cities and towns, we can stretch our public dollars further to make public transit and cycling better and safer.”

The winning bid from construction firm K5 – $4.70 per square foot for red bus lane material – is very competitive and will aid an unprecedented expansion in multimodal projects at a critical time. Previous costs ranged from $7 to $12 per square foot, depending on the municipality.

Combined, the participating municipalities represent more than one-fifth of the Commonwealth’s total population and account for most major regional transit corridors in the metropolitan region. Based on past construction costs across the region and projected project budgets, the MBTA estimates that this joint procurement effort could save taxpayers over $2 million next year, or about 10 percent of what the MBTA plans to spend on the Rapid Response Bus Lanes Program. Additional savings are expected if the procurement is renewed for future years and potentially expanded to more municipalities.

The MAPC has led collective purchasing efforts in the past to procure often expensive equipment like emergency vehicles and parking meters for cities and towns. As Massachusetts municipalities have implemented more quick-build design solutions like bus and bike lanes through road markings, flexposts, and signage in recent years, costs have remained a barrier for some localities.

The MBTA is partnering with many of these cities and towns over the next year to advance projects that make regional roadways more reliable for tens of thousands of daily bus riders. The MBTA and the Cities of Boston, Somerville, Everett, and Chelsea previously announced several projects to be implemented by spring 2021, adding up to fourteen new miles of bus-only infrastructure for routes with some of the highest ridership since the pandemic began. For many projects that include transit priority measures, the MBTA provides funding for design costs and for bus lanes’ red paint while the municipality pays for other multimodal corridor improvements.

The MAPC is the regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of Metropolitan Boston. The MAPC works toward sound municipal management, sustainable land use, protection of natural resources, efficient and affordable transportation, a diverse housing stock, public safety, economic development, clean energy, healthy communities, an informed public, and equity and opportunity among people of all backgrounds.

The MBTA Transit Priority Group was created in 2019 with support from the Barr Foundation to further bus priority projects around the region. Since its creation last year, the group has partnered with municipalities to implement nearly four miles of dedicated bus lanes, alongside transit signal priority and other speed and reliability improvements.

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