Progress on our doorstep: Green space on the rails

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The Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (CCLRT) project has already altered the city landscape between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St Paul, as anyone who has tried to drive, bike or walk along Washington or University Avenues in recent months knows all too well. But when the trains start running sometime in 2014, one improvement to the cityscape in St Paul’s portion of the line that you may not expect is its greenness.

A joint effort between the City of St Paul, Ramsey County, Capitol Region Watershed District and the MET Council will bring significant green infrastructure to the 5.2 mile stretch of the light rail that runs down University Avenue from Highway 280 to the State Capitol.

Over 1,200 trees (up from the 200 currently in the same stretch) will dot both sides of the street, improving the visual appeal of the line and reducing the volume of stormwater hitting our drainage system during rainfalls. These trees will be installed in state-of-the-art trenches that utilize pervious pavers and structural soils to help trees grow and survive in extreme urban conditions. Strategically installed stormwater planters and rain gardens will help capture and filter contaminated water runoff that currently goes untreated into the Mississippi River.

But with a huge number of public agencies involved in the CCLRT, and issues ranging from transportation to urban development to business growth, getting these environmentally sound improvements into the plans of the state’s most significant transportation project since the interstate was not easy. Capitol Region Watershed District Administrator Mark Doneux, who was involved in the planning stages of the CCLRT, says the biggest challenges were balancing the needs and priorities of the many stakeholders involved in the project. For example, creating sustainable tree trenches in sidewalks that can withstand the weight of emergency vehicles.

This effort to green the CCLRT is a great example of how a diverse group of stakeholders with potentially competing interests can bring environmental consciousness and city landscape improvement into an incredibly complex transportation project in a dense urban setting. And it’s happening right here on our doorsteps.

The Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (CCLRT) project has already altered the city landscape between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St Paul, as anyone who has tried to drive, bike or walk along Washington or University Avenues in recent months knows all too well. But when the trains start running sometime in 2014, one improvement to the cityscape in St Paul’s portion of the line that you may not expect is its greenness.

A joint effort between the City of St Paul, Ramsey County, Capitol Region Watershed District and the MET Council will bring significant green infrastructure to the 5.2 mile stretch of the light rail that runs down University Avenue from Highway 280 to the State Capitol.

Over 1,200 trees (up from the 200 currently in the same stretch) will dot both sides of the street, improving the visual appeal of the line and reducing the volume of stormwater hitting our drainage system during rainfalls. These trees will be installed in state-of-the-art trenches that utilize pervious pavers and structural soils to help trees grow and survive in extreme urban conditions. Strategically installed stormwater planters and rain gardens will help capture and filter contaminated water runoff that currently goes untreated into the Mississippi River.

But with a huge number of public agencies involved in the CCLRT, and issues ranging from transportation to urban development to business growth, getting these environmentally sound improvements into the plans of the state’s most significant transportation project since the interstate was not easy. Capitol Region Watershed District Administrator Mark Doneux, who was involved in the planning stages of the CCLRT, says the biggest challenges were balancing the needs and priorities of the many stakeholders involved in the project. For example, creating sustainable tree trenches in sidewalks that can withstand the weight of emergency vehicles.

This effort to green the CCLRT is a great example of how a diverse group of stakeholders with potentially competing interests can bring environmental consciousness and city landscape improvement into an incredibly complex transportation project in a dense urban setting. And it’s happening right here on our doorsteps.