What is the Highway Division?

Bridge Over River
Photo Credit: Trey Cambern

The ability for residents and visitors to reach their destinations is key to the Commonwealth’s quality of life, economy, and environment. To enable the millions of daily trips within Massachusetts, the Highway Division seeks to support a sustainable roadway network that is safe for walking, biking, micro mobility, transit, and driving. 

The Highway Division’s 2,348 employees plan, design and construct infrastructure projects and operate and maintain the existing network.

The Highway Division divides the state into six districts in order to manage the 9,599 roadway miles owned by MassDOT, which includes all interstates and limited-access freeways. Approximately two-thirds of MassDOT roads are non-highways. The Division is responsible for over 5,000 bridges, of which it owns 3,498. In addition to stewardship of state infrastructure, MassDOT oversees the design and construction of federally funded municipal projects.

In January 2020, MassDOT released a new Engineering Directive (E-20-001) with three new design criteria for pedestrian and bicycle facilities and transit provisions. These provisions apply to all MassDOT funded projects and projects overseen by MassDOT to help build a network of high quality, high comfort facilities for people of all ages and abilities. These criteria are intended to create more robust and accessible walkways; lead to greater adoption of separated bicycle facilities; support the creation of transit priority; and enable better inter-agency communication between MassDOT, the Regional Transit Authorities and the MBTA.

 

Highway District Map

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Impacts of COVID-19

While the pandemic and travel restrictions significantly affected the traveling public, the Highway Division largely maintained core operations and services through the ongoing pandemic. Workplace health and safety plans were quickly enhanced to meet state and federal guidance and ensure that the State workforce and its partners could safely continue its mission of design and construction of public works. Remote work practices have been adopted wherever possible, and virtual stakeholder engagement has been successfully implemented, allowing for continued delivery of the Capital Program. 

Where feasible, the Highway Division took advantage of reduced traffic volumes to accelerate specific construction projects. MassDOT also launched its Shared Streets and Spaces grant program to help communities make quick-build improvements to sidewalks, streets, and on-and off-street parking areas in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce. Over 100 days, $10.2 million was allocated to 103 municipalities to implement 123 projects from pop-up bike lanes to safe parklets for outdoor dining, improved crosswalks, dedicated bus lanes, and traffic calming measures. With less congestion on the roadways, speeding unfortunately became a greater concern, with proportionally more speeding violations being issued in March 2020 through June 2020 than during the same period in 2019.

The State Highway Access Permit System, SHAPS, was launched to the public in June of 2018. The online system for requesting and issuing permits to access the State Highway system has been a significant benefit to customers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing for continued operations of the access permit process. In FY20, our six Districts received 3,197 applications, and issued 2,380 permits, 303 extensions, and 282 amendments.