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Green Streets

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11 For 2011: Hunting Park Tree Trenches and Planters

PWD's Watersheds blog closes out the year with a list of 11 green missions accomplished in 2011, from innovative stormwater management projects and stream restorations to groundbreaking policy agreements and energy-generating solar arrays.

The slideshow above shows the progress of the stormwater tree trenches and stormwater planters near the intersection of Hunting Park and Castor Avenues. The two tree trenches and seven planters are designed to capture up to 40,000 cubic feet of runoff from surrounding streets, or an estimated total drainage area of 40,000 square feet.

Stormwater planters and tree trenches are soil-water-plant systems that intercept runoff, infiltrate a portion of it into the ground, evaporate a portion into the air, and in some cases release a portion of it slowly back into the sewer system. Reducing or slowing the amount of stormwater that enters our sewers helps protect the rivers and streams that supply Philadelphia's drinking water by preventing combined sewer overflows.

11 For 2011: Queen Lane Bumpouts

PWD's Watersheds blog closes out the year with a list of 11 green missions accomplished in 2011, from innovative stormwater management projects and stream restorations to groundbreaking policy agreements and energy-generating solar arrays.

Philadelphia's first stormwater bumpouts debuted this summer on Queen Lane in East Falls. Stormwater bumpouts are just one of PWD's green stormwater infrastructure tools to reduce runoff and prevent combined sewer overflows into our rivers and streams. Runoff from the street is diverted into these landscaped curb extensions, where it infiltrates into the soil instead of entering our storm sewers. Aside from managing stormwater, bumpouts also help to calm traffic, and when located at crosswalks they keep pedestrians safer by reducing the street crossing distance.

Each bumpout is custom designed on a site-by-site basis; the six Queen Lane structures are each 8 feet deep and range in length from 24 feet to 80 feet (the bumpout pictured above measures 8' by 60'). Each bumpout is planted with a mix of native grasses, perennials and trees, and the entire system manages the first inch of runoff from an acre of drainage area. That means these bumpouts manage between 800,000 and 900,000 gallons of runoff each year.

View PWD's in-design bumpouts and other green infrastructure projects on the Big Green Map.

Philly Green Infrastructure in Time Magazine

A feature story in this week's issue of Time Magazine (above), "Street Smarts," highlights America's aging infrastructure crisis and Philadelphia's "smarter" approach:

"[Mayor] Nutter, who has pledged to turn Philadelphia into the greenest city in America, has a nice riff about treating water as a resource instead of a waste product and how it's fun to convert parking lots into parks. But he isn't some tie-dyed hippie tree hugger. He wouldn't be so excited about green infrastructure if he didn't think it could help him comply with the Clean Water Act for about $7 billion less than a giant tunnel would cost.

'It's revolutionary, but it's really a no-brainer,' Nutter says. 'We help the environment, and we don't have to waste all that money tearing up the city.'

What Nutter and his team are doing with porous basketball courts and man-made wetlands is a model — not just for wastewater projects, which the EPA expects to cost the U.S. nearly $400 billion by 2030, but also for the reconstruction of a cash-strapped country."

Of course, the Philadelphia Water Department's Green City, Clean Waters plan is a big part of the picture—even if it has helped to contribute to a sharp increase in rain barrel crimes throughout the city:

"Philadelphia had one green roof in 2006. Now it has more than 60. Rain gardens are sprouting in its playgrounds, and the city's first green street absorbed 6 in. of rain during Irene. Water commissioner Howard Neukrug proudly reports that one of the city's 2,000 residential rain barrels was recently stolen. 'We're coming of age!' he jokes. Philadelphia, he says, will look very different in a few decades. 'You can already see how these beautiful new green sites are slowly changing the city,' he says."

Storage Wars: Philadelphia's Green Infrastructure Takes On Lee and Irene

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The Philadelphia Water Department's green infrastructure projects—tree trenches, rain gardens, porous paving and planters, just to name a few—are designed to store and infiltrate stormwater runoff into the ground. By keeping this water out of our sewers, we can prevent sewer overflows that damage the health of our rivers and streams. In the last month, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee put our green stormwater projects to the test with periods of intense rainfall.

PWD's stormwater team monitored the performance of stormwater tree trenches, rain gardens, porous pavement, basins and stormwater planters at 10 different sites around the city during one or both of these storms. Some preliminary results are in, and it seems the green infrastructure has performed admirably. At the tree trenches located at Montgomery Avenue between Frankford and Blair streets in Kensington, sensors were placed underground to measure the water depth beneath the system.

The graphs below chart the depth during each storm, which is a rough indication of how much water is entering the system. As the water flows out and infiltrates the soil, you can see the blue line dip down; in the case of Lee, the multiple peaks in the graph indicate intermittent rainfall over the three days. The pink line represents the depth of the tree trench's storage system (i.e., the maximum depth before the system safely overflows into the sewer), which is 4.5 feet.

To find out where PWD has implemented or planned green infrastructure throughout Philadelphia, check out our Big Green Map.

Porous Repouring At Waterview Rec Center

A portion of the porous concrete sidewalk in front of East Germantown's Waterview Recreation Center was replaced yesterday; the surface of the sidewalk was spalling, or breaking apart. The porous pavement at Waterview Rec Center is designed to absorb stormwater from the walkways and surrounding land and infiltrate it through a gravel bed (shown in the photo above) beneath the sidewalk surface.

Why was the sidewalk breaking apart in the first place? PWD's materials testing lab is currently analyzing specimens of the old concrete to determine the cause. One theory is that an excess amount of deicing salt was applied to an area of the sidewalk during the winter, damaging that portion of the concrete. (Deicing salts can have damaging effects on conventional concrete and asphalt as well—not just porous paving.)

Click here to learn more about porous paving. After the jump, a photo of the porous concrete surface being installed over the gravel infiltration bed.


Philly's First Porous Street 1, Hurricane Irene 0

We'll have a more detailed post in the coming week concerning the performance of Philadelphia's green stormwater infrastructure during Hurricane Irene, but the preliminary report from Percy Street—the city's first porous street, unveiled in June—indicates a unanimous victory for this green project:

  • There was no visual evidence of ponding (rainwater collecting in surface pools) on Percy Street during the storm, as the porous pavement handled the rainfall as expected.
  • The gravel bed below the street's surface filled up one inch at one end of the street and did not register any water filling it at the other end, suggesting that the rain was infiltrating the ground below the system as designed.

The Philadelphia Water Department observed several green infrastructure projects—stormwater tree trenches, a porous basketball court and a stormwater basin—during the storm, and we'll report on the results as the data comes in. Check out our Big Green Map to locate a green stormwater project near you.

2011: An Open Space Odyssey

Image: University City District

It's time to play Name That Public Space: The stretch of Market Street between 30th Street Station and the former Post Office building is about to be transformed from a parking lane into a 40-foot-wide sidewalk by Labor Day. Future phases of the project include tree planting, food kiosks, and tables and chairs with umbrellas (see rendering above). While this all sounds great, the University City District is trying to figure out what to call the new site. Go here to learn more about the project and submit your suggestion to UCD by September 30; the winner gets bragging rights and a $500 Amtrak gift certificate.

And while we're on the topic of open public spaces, PlanPhilly has an article about the pedestrian plazas we mentioned last week in the MOTU post:

"Essentially, Stober said, the city is looking for community groups to come up with a plan to put down some sort of barrier—like boulders—between pedestrians and traffic, as well as things like planters to enliven the space. Applicants will also have to provide for maintenance of their plazas, as well as general liability insurance—so they'll need to be incorporated to bid for a slot.

In return, the city will paint the plazas green to distinguish them for the surrounding street and will also tap into $400,000 in Streets and Commerce department operating funds that have been made budgeted for the project. Money can be used to buy maintenance equipment or furniture and other amenities."


News Stream: WHYY on Philly's Porous Streets

Percy Street in South Philadelphia

WHYY and NewsWorks ran a piece earlier this week about PWD's efforts to reduce stormwater and decrease flooding by implementing green technologies such as porous pavement. The focus was on Percy Street, Philly's first porous street.

"Tiny Percy Street, barely 6 feet wide, is part of a much larger plan drafted by the water department, called Green City, Clean Waters, says Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler.

'We have agreed to green one-third of the city in the next 25 years. Which, for a city our size, has never happened before,' Cutler says. 'We decided we would try to do this with green infrastructure instead of gray infrastructure, which are sewer pipes under the ground that nobody sees.'

Green infrastructure can include green roofs on bus stops, rows of trees connected by underground water-catching trenches, rain barrels and other devices."

The Big Green Map Gets An Upgrade

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The Big Green Map is now bigger, greener and ... mappier. The Philadelphia Water Department is working all around the city to implement green stormwater infrastructure such as porous paving, stormwater tree trenches and rain gardens, just to name a few. Check out our interactive, up-to-date Big Green Map to find out where PWD has either completed construction on a project or has one in the design phase. Each of these projects is a tool in preventing runoff from overburdening Philadelphia's sewer system and keeping our rivers and streams clean by preventing combined sewer overflows.

In all, there are nearly 200 green infrastructure projects either completed or in design—be sure to zoom in on the map to see all the points appear in a given area, navigate the right-hand menu to view specific project types, and click on the green dots for more information on each project and a link to more information.

Sixty Square Feet of Inspiration

Photo: Randall Robinson

It's been almost a month since we last mentioned PWD's green roof bus shelter at 15th and Market, and now that the novelty has died down, you might be wondering what all the fuss was about. After all, it's only 60 square feet of green roof—how much of a difference can it really make? The bus shelter was meant to demonstrate that it's possible to green even small spaces, and to inspire Philadelphia residents to undertake their own green projects at home.

PWD recently received the photo above from a West Philly homeowner. Her downspout planter not only helps keep our streams and rivers clean by capturing stormwater runoff from her roof, it's also a beautiful addition to her home, planted with daylilies, iris, oat grass, red flame grass and perennial pea.

Visit our Residents page for green project ideas for your home, including how-tos and helpful guides.

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