CARES Act Funding for Municipalities
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) includes Assistance for State Local and Tribal Governments. This category of funds allows Massachusetts local governments to pay costs incurred in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commonwealth has made $502M available to municipalities for COVID-related expenses. Municipalities have tapped into about 16% of CARES Act funds available to them. CMRPC’s new dashboard illustrates the first round of CARES Act payments as a percentage of the total funding available to each municipality. The darkest shades indicate a Round One payment close to 40% of the available funds, with lighter shades closer to 0%.
So far, the most common uses for CARES Act funds are:
·        Schools (Distance Learning/Special Ed/Food) - $25.0M
·        Cashflow/Building Modifications - $18.6M
·        Accelerated Telework -$15.4M
·        Other - $7.4M
·        Staffing - $5.2M
·        Expanded Public Health Mission - $4.6M
·        Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - $3.2M
·        Cleaning/Disinfection - $3.1M

Recognizing this opportunity to improve public health services, the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards (MAHB) has produced guidance around permissible public health expenditures under the CARES Act

The Division of Local Services (DLS) has made available the data behind this dashboard in addition to a narrative summary. DLS anticipates a second round of applications will be accepted in September, at which point, municipalities will be able to tap into remaining funds for which they are eligible. Contact Connor Robichaud crobichaud@cmrpc.org for more information.
Central Mass. Towns Receive CDBG CARES Act Funds to Assist Microenterprises, Social Services
The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development has awarded funds to a dozen communities in the CMRPC region to assist small businesses and social service providers impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. These supplemental Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) awards were funded by the federal CARES Act. Grants were made on a competitive basis to non-entitlement towns and groups of towns that do not receive CDBG funds directly from the federal government.

Awardees in our area will receive more than $1 million in funding. Grantees include Leicester (with Brookfield, Dudley, Millbury, North Brookfield and West Brookfield), Southbridge (with Sturbridge and Charlton), Hardwick (under grants to Palmer and Ware), Spencer, and Warren (an individual grant and under a Ware grant). Funds will be used primarily to assist Covid-19 impacted microenterprises of five or fewer employees where the owner-operator meets federal income guidelines for low to moderate family income. Other eligibility factors apply. Grant funds will also be used to support social services ranging from food pantries and senior centers to domestic violence prevention. CMRPC’s community development team aided Leicester and its partners with their application and will administer their grant and shared microenterprise assistance program.

To learn more about the CDBG-CV grants or CMRPC’s community development program, contact Andrew Loew at aloew@cmrpc.org
FEMA Releases FY20 Notice of Funding Opportunity for BRIC Program
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officially announced the Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) for the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant program and the new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) pre-disaster mitigation grant program. This year there is $660 million available for these two programs combined, with a record-breaking $500 million of pre-disaster mitigation funding available nationally through this new program.
 
The BRIC program guiding principles are supporting communities through capability- and capacity-building; encouraging and enabling innovation; promoting partnerships; enabling large projects; maintaining flexibility; and providing consistency. As laid out in the NOFO, the BRIC priorities are to incentivize:
  • public infrastructure projects.
  • projects that mitigate risk to one or more lifelines.
  • projects that incorporate nature-based solutions.
  • the adoption and enforcement of modern building codes.
 
To prepare stakeholders for the opening of the FMA and BRIC application period on September 30, 2020, MEMA will offer a series of webinars and technical assistance in early fall 2020. Applications will be submitted to MEMA. The State deadline is to be determined. 
  
For more information please visit mass.gov, where you will find program information including video recordings, copies of the presentations FEMAs five-part BRIC Summer Engagement Series, upcoming training/outreach events, and application information.
 
More general information on this new FEMA BRIC program can also be found at the following website: https://www.fema.gov/bric .
 
If you have specific questions on these two grant opportunities, please contact mitigation@mass.gov.
Annual CMMPO Environmental Consultation
As was previously mentioned in the CMRPC July 2020 Newsletter, coming up on August 19, from 10AM – 12PM, is the Annual CMMPO Environmental Consultation, hosted by the CMRPC Staff. Due to COVID-19, this year’s meeting will be held virtually, via Zoom, to ensure the safety and involvement of all interested parties. The Consultation will be a great way for staff and other environmental stakeholders to convene and discuss a range of environmental activities associated with the planning region’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), and the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) Mobility2040. The TIP is a document that specifies federal-aid projects and available funding for a period of five years. These projects include highway, bridge, interchanges, intersection improvements, transit and others. Similarly, the LRTP is a broad-based multi-modal/intermodal performance-based document that looks out over a 25-year future timeframe.

This year’s Environmental Consultation will have a particular focus given to stormwater mitigation and culverts. To build off of this, two guest presentations are planned with a focus on regional culvert challenges. First, Scott Civjan (Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UMass Amherst) and Scott Jackson (Extension Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst) will present on the ecological impacts and transportation vulnerability that is associated with road-stream crossings. Following that, Brian Kelder (Stream Crossing Specialist, MA-DER) and Carrie Banks (Streamflow Restoration Planner, MA-DER) will present on the Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance (CRMA) Grant Program, as well as the ecological/flood resiliency benefits for culvert replacements, and the technical aspects of meeting the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards.

Above all, the Annual Environmental Consultation session is an excellent opportunity for all interested parties to meet and gain valuable insights on pertinent evolving topics.


Do you have any further questions or need additional information? Contact Zachary Blais, Assistant Transportation Planner, at your convenience, at zblais@cmrpc.org 
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Planning and Assistance Grants 
Local governments are stronger when they encourage participation from everyone. Over the past year, CMRPC has worked to provide our communities with a simple and effective process for creating ADA Self-Evaluation and Transition Plans. This is a fantastic opportunity to ensure accessibility for everyone and meet your Town’s obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Funded entirely by a grant program from the Massachusetts Office of Disability (MOD), CMRPC is currently completing ADA Plans for the Towns of Auburn, Berlin, and Uxbridge (see Berlin’s completed plan). As partners in this work, CMRPC procured the services of ADA professionals at the Institute for Human Centered Design, Center for Living & Working, and James M. Mazik Consulting Services.

While it has not been confirmed, the same Planning Grants are expected to be made available beginning August 1st and due October 9th. If your community is interested in working with CMRPC on an ADA Plan, we are available to assist with your application. It is also worth noting that some grant programs like Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the Housing Choice Program now require Towns to have an ADA Plan. Once the town’s plan is completed, it will be more competitive for MOD’s Project Grants to actually remove the barriers to accessibility. To learn more, contact Connor Robichaud crobichaud@cmrpc.org
Training Opportunity: 'Cybersecurity 101: Addressing Threats to Local Government'
The MCPPO training, 'Cybersecurity 101: Addressing Threats to Local Government' will occur this summer August 26th and during the fall, November 10th. This training is a one day live online class that provides an overview and conceptual understanding of cybersecurity and the risks associated with poor cybersecurity.

Participants will learn about some of the tools available to reduce local government exposure to cyber-attacks. This class also includes some best practices for procuring information technology (IT) services using M.G.L. c. 30B. For more information and to register, visit this link.
CMRPC Dashboard Recognized at National GIS Conference
On February 11, ESRI, an international supplier of geographic information system software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications, held the 2020 Federal GIS Conference in Washington, DC. There were more than 5,000 attendees from various governmental agencies at the local, state, and national levels.

During the plenary session of the conference, ESRI president Jack Dangermond utilized an image of a CMRPC dashboard created for the Auburn Complete Streets Prioritization Plan during his presentation on how organizations are innovating using ESRI products. The picture below is a screenshot of the recorded presentation showing the dashboard. To view the dashboard click here.
What is the Story of Route 49?
By Rich Rydant, Transportation Project Manager

Over the years I have been occasionally asked, what is the story of Route 49? It’s this wide, straight road in a fairly rural area. Why was it built? For what purpose?

Well, today Route 49 serves as an important regional highway providing a direct link for thousands of vehicles each day between Route 9 in Spencer near the East Brookfield town line and U.S. Route 20 in Sturbridge, near the Charlton town line. Route 49 is also known as the “Podunk Pike”, a namesake gained from the Podunk Village area in the town of East Brookfield. Prior to Route 49, Routes 148, 31 and 56, as well as numerous local roadways, largely accommodated north-south travel in this part of the CMRPC region.

In the mid-1960’s, a major highway planning study known as the “Central Corridor Study”, looked at future projected highway needs in the entire planning region. This study included many facilities that were envisioned, planned and built during the “golden age” of highway construction. I-395 was constructed to link I-290 (“Worcester Expressway”) and the MassPike (I-90) with the old Connecticut Turnpike, that ended just south of Webster. Similarly, I-190 was constructed between Worcester and the north county twin cities of Leominster and Fitchburg. Both I-395 and I-190 relieved growing traffic volume pressures on the Route 12 corridor.

Another major north-south limited access highway that was envisioned in the classic Central Corridor Study would link the Sturbridge area with Gardner and the Route 2 corridor. This highway would extend what is now known as I-84 north to Route 2. This highway is Route 49. Constructed in the early 1970’s, existing Route 49 represents the two northbound lanes of this planned, and eventually cancelled, major highway. The right-of-way for Route 49 is sufficiently wide enough to accommodate the once-planned two southbound lanes. At the current northern terminus in Spencer at Route 9, Route 49 would have continued north, likely through forested state-owned lands, eventually reaching the Gardner area.

In the mid-1970’s, as the building of major highways became less prevalent for a range of social and environmental reasons, the plans for a modern limited access highway, the northern extension of I-84, were shelved. Presently, one can essentially travel the intended limited access alignment on the region’s state numbered Routes 31, 122, 122A, 56 and 68 to gain access to Route 2 in the Montachusett Region and points north. Further, a number of Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) projects - implemented, planned or proposed - will continue to maintain and upgrade these vital state numbered routes well into the future.

So, now you know why Route 49 was built, and why it is so wide and straight…

CMRPC Staff Trained to Assess Culverts Throughout the Region
CMRPC staff – which included Principal Planner Robert Raymond, Assistant Planner Zachary Blais, and Assistant Planner Eric Gemperline from Transportation, as well as Associate Planner Ian McElwee from Regional Collaboration and Community Planning (RCCP) – met with Jake Lehan, an L2 Regional Coordinator with the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC) and a Stream Crossing Assessment Coordinator with the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), and other DER Staff in the field to complete our NAACC Lead Observer Training Requirements. Becoming certified NAACC Lead Observer’s is essential to advancing the new CMRPC Culvert Assessment Program. To complete this field day, they gathered in the parking lot of Hennessy Field, located off of Upton Road, in Westborough, MA. The Town of Westborough is also located in the Concord Watershed, in which CMRPC plans to begin collecting data for the 2020 Transportation Data Collection Season.

Before starting the training they discussed the goals for the day and prepared all the equipment that would be necessary for us to bring out to the field, i.e. chest waders. With PPE masks on, the 8 of us practiced basic social distancing to find a collection of culverts on the map to focus on. From there, they walked south along Upton Road and assessed culverts along the Jackstraw Brook stream. In total, they all walked about a mile along Jackstraw Brook to complete the field training and shadow about 8-10 crossings.

As was mentioned, the reason for this field day was to help continue advancing the new CMRPC Culvert Assessment Program. In an effort to standardize the quality and approach of our Culvert Assessments, we discovered NAACC, which partners with the DER. NAACC began in 2015 to develop a unified protocol for assessing aquatic passability at road-stream crossings, and a program to support crossing assessments throughout the 13-state North Atlantic Region. Through their efforts to develop a unified protocol, electronic data form, scoring system, and database for road-stream crossing assessments that are problematic from an aquatic connectivity perspective, they also launched an in-person/online training and certification program to ensure data quality. By adhering to the NAACC assessment standards, CMRPC can appropriately assess culverts and replace them according to the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards.

With this, there are several roles, with different responsibilities, in which one can train to become certified with NAACC. As CMRPC begins our program, staff were looking to pass the first certification that allows them to assess stream crossings in the field, Lead Observers. Lead Observers also have the responsibility to: lead survey teams, coordinate survey materials and schedules, collect field data, match survey locations to x-y codes, ensure assessments are done safely, and enter data into the online database. To become a Lead Observer, one must: pass either an online or in-person classroom training, pass an online test, complete an in-person field training, and shadow a certified Lead Observer at about 20 crossings. Since all of them had already completed the online training and online test, they worked with Jake Lehan to complete our in-person field training and shadow requirements in Westborough. While they were not able to complete all 20 shadow sites, CMRPC Staff is currently working to schedule a second field day in the near-future to finish all 20 sites. With that, all involved CMRPC Staff will be certified NAACC Lead Observers, allowing us the responsibility to assess road-stream crossings in our region, while also connecting to a multi-state effort to identify and replace vulnerable culverts to create a more resilient region to climate change.

CMRPC is the Regional Planning Agency for the City of Worcester and 39 Surrounding Municipalities in Southern Worcester County. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for those who live and work in the region.
If you have any questions about the newsletter, please contact jpierce@cmrpc.org or 508.756.7717.