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‘Innovative greenscape’ expected to transform Person

A first-of-its kind street project in Fayetteville is expected to beautify the area and improve the health of a creek.

Two blocks of Person Street are being transformed into what city officials call an “innovative stormwater greenscape.” The section from the roundabout at Cool Spring Street to the bridge over Blounts Creek near Old Wilmington Road and B Street will become Fayetteville’s first “green street.”

The project is expected to help the environment by making it more likely that rainwater soaks into the ground rather than running into the creek.

William Hunt, a professor and extension specialist in North Carolina State University’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, said other cities in the state will be inspired by the effort.

“It’s the first extensive green street in North Carolina,” he said. “The project is going to be the standard bearer for the rest of the state.”

Hunt said about 125 engineers and planners from across the United States attended two workshops that focused on the Person Street work.

The project shows how cities can comply with federal stormwater laws, while making streets more “walkable” and improve the look of the area, Hunt said.

“It’s a big deal in our profession,” he said. “It’s a really important project.”

The project will have “low impact development” features that are expected to allow 85 percent of rainwater to soak into the ground rather than run into the creek, according to Giselle Rodriguez, a city engineer.

Construction on the $1.3 million project started in March and is scheduled to be finished in November. The city got a $309,500 grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to help pay for the project. The city’s stormwater fund will pay for about $110,000, with the rest of the money coming from the city’s general fund.

Rodriguez said the number of lanes will be reduced to two along the 1,500-foot stretch of the street. There had been five lanes on one block and three on the other.

“Based on traffic counts, all those lanes weren’t needed,” she said.

The sidewalks are being widened from seven to 10 feet, and electric wires are being buried, Rodriguez said.

Thirteen landscape islands on the sides of the street will be lower than ground level and have grass, plants and shrubs planted in sand and soil that make it more likely that water running into them soaks into the ground.

Some parking spaces will have interlocking concrete pavers that allow water to be absorbed into the ground.

Other areas will have plastic crate-like features below the ground that absorb water and provide spaces for the roots of nearby trees so they won’t disturb the pavement. Other places will have an underground filtration system that removes pollutants from water.

“There’s multiple opportunities for the water to be trapped and infiltrated into the ground,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said estimates show that 95 percent of nitrogen, phosphorous and suspended solids will be removed from water before it flows into Blounts Creek.

“We will improve the water quality in the stream,” she said.

Branyun Bullard, a stormwater inspector for the city, said the creek is considered an “impaired stream.” The city monitors it to be sure it doesn’t become polluted, he said.

The city has several impaired streams, but none that are polluted, Bullard said. The project could help Blounts Creek flourish, he said.

“It’s definitely a positive leap in a good direction,” he said.

Hunt said N.C. State students took samples of water about to run into the creek before the project and will monitor the water at the same places after it is finished.

“In a couple of years, we can see exactly how well it worked,” he said.

Hunt said similar projects in other parts of the state are much simpler. He said such efforts will allow cities to manage stormwater while they refurbish their streets.

Federal law requires some cities to treat stormwater runoff. Projects like the one on Person Street help meet those requirements, he said.

The project also will “calm traffic” and make the street more pedestrian friendly, Hunt said. It also will make the area more beautiful, he said.

“It’s going to look really nice,” Hunt said.

A similar project in Seattle increased property values and encouraged businesses to locate in the area, Hunt said. Several properties along Person Street appear to be available, he said.

“You could see some private investment happening along the street,” he said.

Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at devanes@fayobserver.com or 486-3572.