Boston budgets little money for biking, housing

Boston mayor Martin Walsh released his FY 2017 budget proposal today, containing a nearly $3 billion operating budget and nearly $2 billion for capital costs. Five percent of the operating budget is devoted to streets (and most of that is for traffic operations), but 39.5 percent of the capital budget goes to streets and most of this is for rebuilding bridges, resurfacing and reconstructing roads. Less than one percent of the operating budget (0.44 percent) is going to the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development and even less of the capital budget (0.30 percent).

Boston budget chart

The main drivers in the cost increases have been overtime, health care and education (and declining state aid for it), as well as underfunded pensions. Revenue increases have largely come from property taxes on new development, since the increases on existing buildings are limited to 2.5 percent a year.

But the mayor is proposing some money for better transportation and housing.

The City’s Streets department will get $8 million for Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks; $20 million for Commonwealth Avenue Phase 2A and $22.9 million for Phases Three and Four — which will included protected bike lanes and better pedestrian infrastructure; $18 million for repairts of the Massachusetts Avenue bridge; $7.5 million for cycling facilities on Seaver Street in Roxbury; $24.5 million for sidewalk reconstruction; $6 million on a “Walkable Streets” sidewalk improvement program; $1.6 million on bike share programs; lastly $1.25 million will be spent on transforming parts of roadways into “neighborhood commons.”

On the capital side, $8.4 million will be spent on bike lane extension. According to activist and tactical urbanist Jonathan Fertig, the amount, which is a $2.5 million increase compared to last year, is “inadequate”. He also Tweeted that Boston’s spending on bicycles and pedestrians is dismal when compared to other cities.

However, $9.5 million is being proposed for the City’s Vision Zero initiative, with the goal of redesigning roadweays to reduce speeds and ultimately, pedestrian deaths.

The Department of Neighborhood Development is getting $9.8 million for foreclosure and eviction prevention. They also have targets of permitting 600 units of affordable housing, 2050 units of market-rate and 1000 of middle income.

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