Proximity of transportation can have a major impact on people’s health for better or worse. Having easy access to transportation is an important benefit to people, but proximity can work against health as well—it can impede quality of life in a number of ways, including air quality, noise, pedestrian safety, and aesthetically.
That is why the Transportation Reform Law in Massachusetts included not only realignment of agencies in order to make operations more efficient, but mandated that health be considered in future transportation projects. By requiring that health impact assessments (HIAs) be factored in to decisions around transportation, Massachusetts has become a leader in the nation.
MA health and transportation officials are piloting an HIA as part of the Grounding McGrath Highway Transportation Study. This is the first step of a long-term project. The Grounding McGrath Study and the HIA are not only looking at the best way to address traffic issues on a major thoroughfare, but is also focusing on reducing environmental hazards and safety issues associated with the current configuration, and ultimately creating a design that actually promotes healthy behaviors by encouraging physical activity with a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly design.
Critical to this process is a newly formed partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Department of Transportation. Of paramount importance is the collaboration occurring right from the start with the community that is affected by these decisions. By forming these partnerships to protect and improve the health of people affected by the McGrath Highway, Massachusetts is working toward goals set forth in the National Prevention Strategy. Indeed Massachusetts is on the move.