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The District’s plan for eco-friendly redevelopment in Southwest Washington is a big one, but M-NCPPC environmental planner Tina Schneider points out that one of the plan’s small elements could apply in Montgomery County.

Alternating tree panels with stormwater panels is a way to slow and filter run-off while enhancing streetscape. The County requires stormwater management treatment, but it’s often easiest to use methods that have already recieved approval than to try something new. And, let’s admit it, there’s a lot of competition for the limited right-of way space. We want to make room for bicycles, streetscaped sidewalks, and–oh yeah–cars. It can also be a challenge to thread a new drainage path among existing underground infrastructure.

But other places have managed it–you can see lots of pictures of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail here, happy bike riders, cars, and planted panels.

It really speaks to what a complex environment a street is, one made more complex by competing interests vieing for a limited resource–space. But that’s what planning is all about. And don’t forget that roads and streets are our most prevalent and visible public spaces; they deserve coordinated design attention.

PS–one of my first questions was about mosquitos. Stormwater panels are designed to drain within 24 hours, less time than it takes mosquitos to get–ahem–comfortable.

4 Responses to “Small Pieces of Big Streets”

  1. Tina Schneider

    I look forward to the day when these stormwater systems become the norm and water quality is equally as important as the automobile and pedestrians.

  2. gk

    Your post provokes several comments. One, that streets are our most prevalent public space. We ignore (or misunderstand) them at our peril. They will never go away soon enough that devoting attention to parallel systems only will make our environment better.

    Second, is the idea of thinking carefully about infrastructure and adapting. In South Florida stormwater management is handled differently. As elsewhere, stormwater now must be collected and handled, not just funneled directly into streams rives and bays. The difference is that stormwater collected in Miami goes to a sediment control box (like up north) but then is sent via injection wells into a shallow aquifer (not the potable one). This ensures replenishment of the aquifer and limits saltwater intrusion, a phenomena that once salt water replaces diminishing freshwater, the salt water is difficult to displace. Rather that send stormwater (albeit cleaner and later) into the ocean as in DC, the bulk of stormwater is sent into the ground. Given they hydrology of South Florida, this was a tailored response.

  3. Anita Clark

    The problem really isn’t space, runoff, or aesthetics…it’s the age-old issue of apathy to improve our surroundings that is most alarming. If more communities like this one took a pro-active stance, we could quickly and positively make a difference.

  4. claudia kousoulas

    I wonder if the apathy comes partially from being unaware of options on the part of community members. There are also issues of costs–upfront in building them and long term to water quality if we don’t build them.