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Study of the National Scope and Potential for Improvement of State Economic Development Highway Programs

Part 2. Case Study - Massachusetts Public Works Economic Development Program

2.1 Program Overview

The Public Works Economic Development (PWED) Program provides grants to communities (cities and towns) in Massachusetts to pay for the design and construction of roads and other transportation related projects that support economic development. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation administers the program. The Secretary of Transportation typically makes the awards.

The program process starts with a local community filling out an application for funding infrastructure projects that may include local roads as well as associated lighting, landscaping, utilities and public sewer/water/waste facilities. The application form requests information about the size of (a) the requested public investment, (b) the planned private investment, and (c) the number of jobs to be created or retained as a direct result of the proposed projects. The requested grant amount is normally limited to $1 million on a given project unless it demonstrates significant regional benefits. The PWED Program was funded by the state legislature under the biannual transportation bond bill. However, starting in 2004, program funding was moved to be under the umbrella of the Commonwealth Capital bond fund, as discussed below. In recent years, program funding has been the range of $12 to $20 million per year. In a typical year, there are around 65 applicants and around 15 are funded.

2.2 History and Evolution of the Program.

The PWED Program was created in the 1981 Transportation Bond Act (St. 1981.c.732) during a downturn in the state economy. The program's was set up with objective of funding infrastructure improvement projects associated with local or city government's economic development efforts that would enhance the economic competitiveness of the State. The program was designed from the start to involve a collaboration of multiple agencies within the state. The State's Secretary of Transportation administers the program.

In 2000, the Governor (Mitt Romney) reorganized state agencies and created an umbrella organization known as the Office of Commonwealth Development (OCD), which coordinated the state's Executive Office of Transportation (EOT), Executive Office of Environment Affairs (EOEA), Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) and Division of Energy Resources (DOER). OCD was created to "promote sustainable development through the integration of energy, environmental, housing, and transportation policies, programs, and regulations." The inter-agency coordination process then shifted to the OCD.

In 2003, the PWED program was repositioned as one of OCD's portfolio of "smart growth" grant programs,. This combined the public works and economic development program together with programs for agricultural preservation, community development, and natural resource development. The underlying concept for Massachusetts was that "smart growth or sustainable development is about growing where it makes the most sense" -- i.e., in communities with existing population bases, business districts, and areas for commercial, industrial and institutional uses and some existing infrastructure and utilities. In other words, economic development supported by PWED can be viewed as smart growth insofar as it helps the economic growth and vitality of existing cities, towns and inner city areas. That new goal was effectively added to what has previously been a program focused just on job creation.

In 2004, the program was relocated to the Commonwealth Capital (CC) fund, and its funding was renewed as one of the CC programs. The Commonwealth Capital fund is a high visibility effort of the governor that "coordinates state capital programs that affect development patterns to ensure that state investments promote projects consistent with the Governor's Sustainable Development Principles, and its partnerships with municipalities seeking to advance the Commonwealth's development interests." PWED program staff reported that these changes did not change the role of the Secretary of Transportation who remained the primary party in PWED grant selection. However, it did significantly raise the visibility of the Public Works Economic Development program. It also added a new layer of application form, since all CC programs require a supplementary CC application form and review by the OCD inter-agency group to score the application's adherence to CC goals (as described below). This was in addition to the regular PWED application.

The application review process evolved as organizational changes took place. From 1981 to 2003, the applications review process involved the Secretary of Transportation in consultation with the Secretary of Economic Affairs and the Secretary of Communities & Development. Usually, the Director of Policy at the Office of Transportation would make the initial recommendation, and then the Secretary of Transportation (or the Governor) would make the final decision based on considerations of the project importance and need. Since 2003, the review was expanded to incorporate review by the Office of Commonwealth Capital (OCD) as well as the state Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) and staff of the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD).

2.3 Program Funding Decisions and Follow-Up.

The application review and funding process has been highly competitive with only one-quarter of the applications being funded each year. All applications are considered, based on information provided in the completed PWED application form. The basic threshold criteria, scoring and decision processes are described here.

Threshold for consideration.The PWED program has no minimum eligibility criteria. However, applications are screened:

In addition, applications are screened to ensure that they are: (a) in compliance with legal requirements, (b) provide necessary and appropriate information, (c) are clear and current, (d) have well documented cost estimates and conclusions, and (e) are consistent with the Commonwealth's Sustainable Development Principles.

From 1981 to 2004, applications were ranked on the basis of five criteria:

Starting in 2004, the state's new Commonwealth Capital Application form and resulting community rating was added as a factor used to prioritize grant applications. The rating assesses the municipality's powers to promote sustainable development. This is defined in terms of the extent to which the community has implemented local zoning to promote cluster and mixed use development, redevelopment of "brownfields" or other abandoned industrial property, plans for affordable housing, and policies to preserve open space and improve water quality.

The new process implemented in 2004 provides for a formal scoring based on the following considerations:

While applications are reviewed by multiple agencies, the program manager at EOT, along with EOT staff and Mass Highway staff makes the initial recommendation, and then the Secretary of Transportation or the Governor makes the final decision based on considerations of the project importance and need.

There is no formal auditing process for post-funding follow-up. However, if a project applies for a second or subsequently third phase then there is an informal quantification of jobs created or sustained.

2.4 Supplementary Program Information.

The following text was taken verbatim from Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation documents:

"To facilitate the Secretary's review and evaluation of any proposed grant, the following information should be provided as part of the application process:

Required Showings of Eligibility. The following questions must be answered for an applicant to demonstrate that the applicant, the project and the costs are all eligible. (note: applicants are reminded that all water and sewer projects are ineligible, as are projects on which construction has begun. Certain types of costs are also ineligible and must be excluded. See 701 CMR 5.05 and 5.06)

Is the applicant eligible under 701 CMR 5.03? Has a lead agency been designated and demonstrated the management and financial capacity needed for the project?

Is the project eligible under 701 CMR 5.04? Will the proposed grant improve public access and support a municipal economic development effort that will:

  • Support existing commercial plants or industrial facilities? Establish new plants/facilities consistent with state and local goals?
  • Provide long-term employment opportunities?
  • Positively impact the local tax base?
  • Leverage private investment?
  • Create stronger public-private partnerships?

Are the project costs eligible under 701 CMR 5.06? Are the cost estimates well supported? Have ineligible costs been excluded?

Other Threshold Showings. The following questions must be affirmatively addressed before the application can be further evaluated.

If more than $1,000,000 is being requested, has the applicant demonstrated significant regional economic benefits as required by 701 CMR 5.06? What are the significant regional economic benefits?

Has the applicant conducted a public hearing on the project as required by 701 CMR 5.08 (10)? What were the results of that hearing and of any other public process that solicited public comment?

Has the applicant demonstrated that the project is consistent with the Commonwealth's Sustainable Development Principles?

Has the applicant documented the transportation impacts of the project?

Application. Applicants are directed to 701 CMR 5.08 for a list of other documentation needed for an application to be deemed complete, and to for the Commonwealth Capital application, required to submitted prior to or concurrent with the PWED application.

To facilitate review, applicants are further urged to:

  • Explain how the project is consistent with and implements the Commonwealth's Sustainable Development Principles

  • Clearly state any calculations and identify reference sources (ex: calculation of jobs)

  • Provide current information or state why current information is not available (ex: census; EO 418 certification)

  • Include maps and charts showing project in context of both regional and local transportation systems

  • Include relevant sections of state, regional, and local plans that would be advanced by the project

  • Identify any other Commonwealth Capital applications filed or to be filed for the project and the status of any such applications.

  • Provide a timeline for the project (including a cash flow analysis) and identify any key milestones.

Evaluation. Applicants are directed to 701 CMR 5.09 for a list of key data and other criteria that the Secretary will consider in determining the economic benefits of the project. The Secretary will also consult with other agencies in accordance with 701 CMR 5.09 (1) and 5.10. In framing his evaluation of the project the Secretary will score the project (100 point maximum) to allow it to be categorized as "High" "Medium" or "Low" based upon the following scale:

  • Employment and Economic Development Opportunities: (maximum 60 points)
    • Number of jobs to be created or retained
    • Effect on area's unemployment rate
    • Project wage average compared to state wage average
    • Positive impact on local tax base
    • Significant public sector leverage of private sector investment
  • Consistency with and support of other state and local smart growth and transportation goals: (maximum 20 points):

    Implements the Commonwealth's Sustainable Development Principles

    • Is consistent with local and regional plans for development of the area
    • Promotes smart growth by supporting development within city of town centers, on brownfields or underutilized commercial or institutional land, as part of a transit-oriented development opportunity, or through similarly effective strategies.
    • Is consistent with and maximizes opportunities to support the objectives of DHCD, EOEA, DOER and Economic Affairs
    • Promotes geographic equity
    • Will be cost effective
    • Advances state infrastructure goals and transportation policies, including Fix it First and Communities First
    • Is consistent with other state and local transportation goals, particularly
      • improving structurally deficient and weight restricted bridges
      • increasing safety, including for pedestrians and bicycle riders
      • reducing bottlenecks
      • points)
    • Supports a balanced and multimodal transportation plan, including as relevant:
      • bicycle
      • pedestrian
      • transit
      • rail
      • port
      • aviation
  • Consistency with other state policies: (maximum 20 points)
    • Promotes partnerships with municipalities seeking to advance the Commonwealth's interest in: redevelopment and new development in areas already served by infrastructure; preservation and protection of historic structures and critical lands; and rewarding and encouraging local land use planning that supports the Commonwealth's Sustainable Development Principles. (See the Commonwealth Capital Municipal evaluation section of OCD Website for further information)

Applicants are reminded that a "High" score does not mean that an Applicant will receive an award. This evaluation methodology will be implemented to help the Secretary make smart investment choices with available resources to meet communities' growth and infrastructure needs. This evaluation will ensure that PWED decisions are based upon need, equity, and sustainable economic development objectives.

Process: Applicants will be advised when the application is deemed complete and eligible (in whole or in part). A deadline for submitting proposals will be set quarterly, unless the Secretary determines otherwise. Applicants should update any pending applications periodically and in advance of that deadline since outdated information may result in a negative evaluation. If an application has been pending for more than 1 year, Applicants are urged to consult with the Program Manager.

For further information please contact Pamela Russell, Program Manager, at 617-973- 8257 or Email:

2.5 Examples of Funded Projects.

Massachusetts Public Works Economic Development (PWED) Grants Awarded in FY 2002

Community/Project Name Project Scope State Amount
Barnstable Infrastructure improvements $2,000,000
Boston (redevel. area) Infrastructure improvement at Crosstown Ind. Park at Melina Cass Blvd, Roxbury $2,000,000
Cohasset Street and sidewalk improvements associated with the revitalization of town's downtown business district along route 3A $1,500,000
Dalton Housatonic Street reconstruction project $250,000
Dartmouth Development costs of road construction, curbing, drainage, lighting, and landscaping for a new Dartmouth portion of the New Bedford Business Park $1,000,000
Grafton Infrastructure improvements to support the Tufts Biomedical Science Park $990,440
Great Barrington The enhancement and revitalization of Crissey Road to create the Berkshire South Business Park $446,000
Groveland Bates Bridge/Elm Park preservation and reconstruction project $1,000,000
Haverhill Construction of the intersection of Hilldale Ave. and Rosemount St. to provide direct access to the Rydan Park section of Ward Hill Industrial Park $1,000,000
Hudson Assist the Town's efforts in providing for safer, more reliable roadway servicing in the commercial/industrial areas of town $1,425,000
Leominster Completion of the connector roadway that extends from Pioneer Park through Orchard Hill to the Route 2/Harvard Street interchange $750,000
Ludlow Extension of Sportsmen's Road, relocation of a solid waste transfer station, access/utilities for the Baird Middle School and a proposed community center $1,500,000
Marblehead Placement of underground wires, new sidewalks, resting curbs, and period lighting in commercial area (Washington, Front, and Pleasant Streets) $850,000
North Adams The city's Phase III Central City Revitalization Project $1,460,000
Rockland The town's roadway enhancement project $1,000,000
Total Funds   $17,171,440
Updated: 10/20/2015
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