In partnership with the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District (SRPEDD) and Fall River Mass in Motion, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council conducted an HIA that examined the proposed Phase 2 of the Quequechan River Rail Trail (QRRT) project in the City of Fall River, Massachusetts. Phase 1 of the project was one mile of trail in Fall River’s Flint and Maplewood neighborhoods. Phase 2 is a 1.6 mile extension, connecting the existing section of the QRRT to downtown Fall River. The HIA examined the potential health impacts associated with constructing Phase 2, focusing on physical activity, economic development and air quality. The proposed trail extension runs through densely populated areas, providing increased opportunities for residents to be physically active and likely reducing health disparities in Fall River. The extension will also likely provide a boost to local businesses and increase home values, positively affecting health outcomes associated with socioeconomic conditions. Walking or biking trips on the QRRT are likely to replace a number of car trips in Fall River, resulting in improvements in air quality. The HIA also made several recommendations for the engineering, design, and maintenance of the trail and to improve overall city and regional connectivity by utilizing the trail. Recommendations include: trail lighting to be used during non-daylight hours; include a long-term maintenance plan to encourage a positive image of the trail; and add bicycle infrastructure in and around the Fall River downtown business and commercial areas to help attract QRRT users.
To improve pedestrian and cyclists’ safety, the HIA suggested that the Quequechan River Rail Trail incorporate visible signage and traffic calming elements at trail crossings. The HIA also recommended the addition of bicycle infrastructure in and around Fall River’s downtown business area to increase the use of bicycle share programs. The HIA fostered connections between stakeholders in the transportation sector and those who are concerned about health, equity, and social determinants of health. Construction of the trail was completed, and the trail was opened to the public, in August 2016. Funding has been allocated for Department of Community Maintenance staffing to manage maintenance on all trails.
This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.