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Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery Grant Program

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NACTO, with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, is offering grants of $50,000 to ten member transportation agencies that are partnering with community-based organizations to reimagine streets, implement ideas, and support ongoing community efforts that meet the needs of populations disproportionately harmed by COVID-19. 

As we inch toward a full reopening, we cannot return to a pre-pandemic “normal” that disinvested in communities and amplified economic and racial inequities. For transportation agencies, this means preparing for, planning, and implementing projects based on and in response to stated community needs with meaningful input and guidance from community members.

Last summer, NACTO offered grant support to ten cities that, in partnership with community-based organizations, were reimagining streets to meet the needs of populations disproportionately harmed by COVID-19. Leveraging community-rooted partners’ local expertise and relationships alongside city staff’s ability to implement projects in the public right-of-way, these 10 city-community partnerships developed COVID-19 information and testing hubs in the public right-of-way; opened streets for outdoor schooling, dining, and walking; and created new outdoor community hubs.

Building on the success of last year’s 10 city-community partner teams, NACTO, with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, is again offering grant support to 10 city transportation agencies that are centering community expertise in COVID-19 response and recovery. Eligible strategies will focus on physical or operational changes to public space, including the roadbed, sidewalks, and other spaces such as parking lots or plazas that are being converted to support a community need. All strategies should respond to the needs of populations disproportionately harmed by COVID-19’s public health and economic impacts.

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2021 Grant Projects

Read the press release announcing this year’s grants.

Lake-to-Lake Public Space, Baltimore
Baltimore DOT in partnership with Black People Ride Bikes, Bikemore, Graham Projects
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Druid Hill Park and Lake Montebello have been important resources for Baltimore residents to exercise and gather outdoors. But the legacy of redlining and the alignment of major arterial roads through predominantly Black communities have created unsafe access conditions for those entering the parks. In partnership with Black People Ride Bikes (BPRB), Bikemore, and Graham Projects, Baltimore DOT will implement traffic calming measures and right-of-way art improvements at the main bicycle and pedestrian access points of both parks. With traffic calming in place, BPRB and Bikemore will host events to celebrate the improvements, and to kick off engagement about right-of-way art and longer-term plans.

Jazz Alley: Recovery & Celebration in Historic Five Points Neighborhood, Denver
Denver DOTI in partnership with Five Points Business Improvement District, Curtis Park Neighbors Residential Neighborhood Organization, Heart of Five Points Residential Neighborhood Organization, Denver Health, Bernard F. Gibson Sr. Eastside Family Health Center
Denver’s Five Points community was the city’s first predominately African American neighborhood, and one that played an important role in the history of jazz. But during the pandemic, decades of redlining and disinvestment have translated to disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates and significant drops in sales revenue for local businesses. Supported by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), the newly founded Five Points Business Improvement District will take the lead in converting one neighborhood street into a Temporary Outdoor Expansion area where local minority and immigrant-owned businesses can create outdoor patios to accelerate their economic recovery. Leveraging the newly available street space, Denver Health will also establish a mobile COVID-19 vaccination site for community members.

The Paint Pot, Fort Collins
FC Moves in partnership with Bike Fort Collins, the Built Environment Program at the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, Mujeres de Colores
The City of Fort Collins is currently developing a community-driven asphalt art program in which community applicants will propose a design and location for installation, the city will approve the application, applicants will seek approval from the surrounding neighbors, and then they will fund, install, and maintain the asphalt art. The Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery grant will be used to establish a “Paint Pot”, which will fund materials and labor associated with designing, installing, and maintaining asphalt art projects in low-income neighborhoods, and contract with Bike Fort Collins to engage and provide technical support to historically marginalized and underrepresented communities.

Safe Routes to School Streets, Los Angeles
Los Angeles DOT in partnership with Los Angeles Walks and the LA Unified School District
With children returning to their classrooms in August, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is focused on providing safe bicycle and pedestrian access to schools in two hard-hit communities. In partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Los Angeles Walks, LADOT’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) team, will create temporary pedestrian/bicycle only zones during student drop-off/pick-up times on the schools’ main entrance street block, providing social-distancing space for school gate COVID protocols, convening space for the community, and a template for future Zero Emissions Zones.

Carts in Parks: A Parks Vending Pilot Program, Madison, WI
Madison Economic Development Division and Office of Business Resources in partnership with the Latino Chamber of Commerce
Madison’s robust community of street vendors, who all operate in the public right-of-way, experienced significant revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Simultaneously, many Madison residents started spending more time with their neighbors in Madison’s parks, increasing interest in vending within city parks. To address the needs of vendors while fulfilling requests of other community members, an interdepartmental team at the City of Madison, in partnership with the Latino Chamber of Commerce, will create opportunities for mobile vending in parks by removing permitting barriers for the minority-owned businesses and vendors. This pilot will promote economic recovery and business growth for vendors, and create gathering places for neighbors for community-building events and activities.

18th Ave & Little Earth Engagement and Demonstration Project, Minneapolis
Minneapolis DPW and Ward 9 Council office in partnership with Little Earth of United Tribes
In 2020, the community of 18th Ave & Little Earth saw a persistent increase in crime, speeding, and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd. To deter crime, community members from the Little Earth of United Tribes, a Native American housing community with a majority of residents near this section of 18th Ave, implemented their own traffic calming measures to improve livability and safety. Led by the Ward 9 Council office, Minneapolis Public Works and other City staff met with residents regularly throughout 2020 to collaborate on changes to the right-of-way that could improve public safety. Building on this past visioning and community engagement, the City of Minneapolis, in partnership with Little Earth Residents Association, will use the Streets for Pandemic Response & Recovery grant to develop a transportation study and engagement plan for permanent changes to the corridor. The team will work together to test temporary demonstration projects, such as street art reflective of Indigenous culture, placemaking, interim changes to the street, and improving street furniture, and ultimately create a long term engagement and implementation plan that reflects the needs and cultures of the residents of Little Earth of United Tribes.

Parking Spaces to People Places, Portland, OR
Portland Bureau of Transportation in partnership with the Rosewood Initiative and the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition
Earlier this year, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) launched a study with Portland State University to explore repurposing space in East Portland, where infrastructure challenges create high-traffic, high fatality streets with little opportunity for pandemic recovery of local businesses and community services. The study resulted in recommendations for increased community involvement in city planning and permitting processes, and an opportunity to work together to activate and repurpose parking lot spaces. Using this grant money, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and the Rosewood Initiative will build on these recommendations to pilot a project in East Portland converting a parking lot into a summer food market for the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition. The Rosewood Initiative and the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition will lead the set-up and activation of the space and will encourage local businesses and vendors to participate in the summer market each week.

Safe Passage Park, San Francisco
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in partnership with Tenderloin Community Benefit District (TLCBD)
San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, where people of color and immigrants make up over two-thirds of the population, was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and saw a large increase in the number of unhoused people setting up tents along the already-crowded sidewalks. In 2020, in response to the loss and needs of the community, SFMTA expanded pedestrian space into the parking lane along Turk Street to provide physical distancing space. Now, SFMTA and the TLCBD will collaborate to enhance the Safe Passage Park Project on Turk Street to provide community programming and resources to people living on the block and expand the sidewalk infrastructure to improve pedestrian safety and walking space for kids and seniors.

Reimagining Little Brook Stay Healthy Street, Seattle
Seattle DOT in partnership with Lake City Collective
Reflecting the history of segregated land use, Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood is densely populated and dominated by high-speed car-oriented roadways. This has resulted in harmful health, environmental, and social consequences, including high rates of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to community requests, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the Lake City Collective (LCC) installed a Stay Healthy Street in Lake City in 2020, but residents of nearby the Little Brook neighborhood expressed they’d prefer to have more open space in their own community so they would not need to cross major streets and walk uphill. Based on this feedback, SDOT and LCC will use this grant to extend the pilot and add more space for outdoor recreation, including play equipment, a community-designed and painted street mural, and programming while students are out of school that empowers families and connects neighbors.

A Civic Plaza for All, Washington, DC
District DOT in partnership with District Bridges
In Washington, DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza has been a critical gathering place for unhoused community members who have been disproportionately at-risk during the pandemic. Partnering with local community development non-profit District Bridges, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will dedicate resources to revitalize the plaza for all community members through the provision of information and services for unhoused residents, a shared outdoor dining area for daily activation, open space for free outdoor events, and a bike maintenance program at the plaza. Through these initiatives, the plaza will be a vibrant, central meeting place where residents are able to access much-needed social resources, businesses have new opportunity to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through additional seating capacity, and the community experiences a sense of care and belonging.

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2020 Program Report

In April 2020, NACTO began to translate the lessons learned from our member-sourced Transportation Response Center into a rapid implementation playbook for cities to respond quickly and equitably to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting resource, Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery, mapped out a series of key design principles that cities could use as a model to inform ongoing COVID-19 response strategies:

• Support the most vulnerable people first;
• Amplify and support public health guidance;
• Create safer streets for today and tomorrow;
• Support workers and local economies;
• Partner with community-based organizations; and
• Act now and adapt over time.

NACTO then launched a competitive grant opportunity to ten cities working to put these principles into action. Read the report to learn more about the selected project, which have created space for learning and play, brought information about city programs and COVID-19 to the streets, provided opportunities to listen to the community, and enabled a shift in thinking about what issues people face in this moment—and how cities can wield their power to help identify and address them.

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Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery

NACTO Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery CoverThe COVID-19 global pandemic altered every aspect of urban life in recent months. In response, city transportation officials around the world have quickly implemented new street design and management tools to keep essential workers and goods moving, provide safe access to grocery stores and other essential businesses, and ensure that people have safe space for social/physical distancing while getting outside. These evolving practices will shape our cities as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and are key to our long-term recovery.

Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery compiles emerging practices from around the world and includes implementation resources for cities and their partners. Recognizing the rapidly changing nature of this pandemic, Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery will be revised and expanded to include new strategies, address changing conditions, and provide the best possible information on each design practice.

See the resource online and as a PDF.

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Additional Resources

Blog Posts

Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery Grants: Direct Aid to Cities Working Directly with Communities (12/8/2020)
NACTO Announces Awardees of Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery Grant Program (8/25/2020)

Press Releases

NACTO Announces 10 Grants for an Equitable Recovery Through Repurposing City Streets (6/17/2021)
NACTO Announces Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery Grants, Second Round of Funding for Cities and Community Partners (4/29/2021)
NACTO Announces Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery Grant Program, Helping Cities Transform Streets During the Pandemic (6/25/2020)