Borough Takes Street-Wise Actions

by Tom Damm

Making downtown more “safe, clean and green” is part of the strategic plan for Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

So, there was much to celebrate recently when Chambersburg business and government officials joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region and the Chesapeake Bay Trust to dedicate a project that fits all three criteria.

A key downtown street is no longer a bumpy threat to emergency vehicles, or an eyesore for battlefield reenactments and borough parades, or an open tap of stormwater pollution to the Falling Spring Branch of the Conococheague Creek, which empties into the Potomac River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

Instead, Chambersburg used a $115,000 EPA/Chesapeake Bay Trust Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) grant and $315,000 in matching funds to transform Rhodes Drive and its surrounding area into a model of rain-absorbing efficiency.

Appropriately, it rained just before the dedication ceremony, giving timely testament to the benefits of a bioretention area installed along the road to capture and treat stormwater runoff.

And as speakers extolled the project’s features, several ambulances with lights flashing traveled up the refurbished street, another reminder of the multiple advantages of the green street project.

The Rhodes Drive project involved installing the bioretention area and about 580 linear feet of pervious sidewalk; adding native plants and shrubs; replacing two drains to minimize stormwater volume; and including educational signage to help visitors appreciate the improvements to the community and the environment.

In all, the project is expected to treat an estimated 1.2 million gallons of rainwater each year.

Said Chambersburg Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill, “We want to demonstrate how public works projects can be effective and good for the environment.”

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

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