July 21, 2010

Edmonston's 7 elements of a green street

Edmonston, a small town in Maryland, has big plans for its streets and its rain runoff.  The town's Green Street project will transform its major residential street, Decatur Street, into "a fully environmentally responsible street [utilizing] the best sustainability practices from across the country - from the tree canopy overhead to the storm water system underground.  It will be first street of its kind in Maryland, and perhaps the on the east coast."  This street is a big deal.  At its groundbreaking on November 24, 2009, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Donna Edwards, among other officials, were in attendance!

The seven elements of Edmonston's Green Street plan are:
  1. Native tree canopy
  2. Street lighting with clean energy
  3. Walking, Running and Biking
  4. Recycled Materials
  5. Storm water Bio Retention and Filtration
  6. Open Process and Public Engagement
  7. Education and Replication
The elements are self-explanatory but visuals are always welcome.  Here is Decatur Street, pre-greening.



The existing tree canopy is composed of "non-native and low growth trees [that] reduce habitat and contribute to "urban heat island" effect" (1). The street is lit by "inefficient" and coal powered sodium and mercury vapor street lights; also, since the lighting is located above the trees, the sidewalk is poorly lit (2). In terms of accessibility, the sidewalks are narrow and broken, possibly violating ADA requirements (3). The street is wide which "promotes speeding, making it even less safe for bikes and pedestrians." Furthermore, there are no dedicated bike lanes (4). Finally, stormwater runoff is directed towards local waterways via the sewer system, negatively impacting "fish and other wildlife, promot[ing] illness among people, and contribut[ing] to the death of the Chesapeake Bay" (5). 

The ideal Green Street design for Decatur Street will look like the following:


The transformation is stark! The new canopy will be composed of large stature native which will "increase habitat, clean air, and cool street, sidewalks and homes" (1). L.E.D. light fixtures will be installed; these are "extremely efficient, and will be powered by clean wind energy. [Also] the lights will be closer to the street to maintain effectiveness to public safety" (2). Wider sidewalks of 36 inches will be ADA compliant promoting "wellness, walking and community" (3). Well-signed bike lanes will be installed and will also promote "safety, wellness, an alternative to cars, and offer connectivity to bike trails and transit." In addition, bump-outs create "wiggle" streets, "slowing traffic for bike and pedestrian safety" (4). And perhaps the piece de resistance, bioretention gardens and tree boxes will capture stormwater runoff; "the water is then naturally filtered of pollutants and debris, helping restore our rivers and the Bay" (5). 

Tell us about your city's efforts to create greener, safer, more accessible streets!

Thank you to Michelle Rodriguez, Edmonston's Town Clerk, for permission to use the photographs posted on the town's website. Hat tip: ASLA The Dirt blog.

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