The City of Tacoma has built the world’s greenest road

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E. 40th St. earns silver certification and is the highest scoring greenroads project to date

The Greenroads Foundation has announced that the City of Tacoma’s East 40th Street Green Infrastructure Project has received the Greenroads Silver Certification and is currently the highest-scoring Greenroads project in the world. 

The foundation manages a third-party certification process that assesses the sustainability of transportation projects using the Greenroads rating system. This project earned 54 points and met all project requirements to become the highest-scoring Greenroads project. The Sandy Forks Road project in Raleigh, NC had held this distinction since November 2017. 

The East 40th Street Green Infrastructure Project reduces neighborhood flooding, enhances safety and increases accessibility, replaces underground utilities including water mains and sanitary sewers, and improves water quality by 99.8 percent for 39.1 acres in the First Creek, Lower Puyallup watershed. Localized flooding previously happened along this corridor because it is a low point in the East Tacoma neighborhood. 

“When I ride my bike down this street there are curbs, sidewalks, lights and green spaces where families take walks and children play – a far cry from the broken, potholed and mostly dark gravel edged roadway that once framed this neighborhood. It positively changes the way the community sees our neighborhood,” said Catherine Ushka, City of Tacoma council member. 

A 16-foot shared use path was built along the new roadway from East McKinley Avenue to Portland Avenue East, creating a safe connection for pedestrians and cyclists traveling to nearby schools or accessing the new Pipeline Trail. Thirteen biofiltration swales, or sloped channels designed to capture and filter stormwater runoff, were installed between the roadway and the path. More than 150 trees were planted within these bioswales to create a safety buffer. 

Students from Lister, Lincoln, Stewart, and First Creek schools used a superhydrophobic coating to paint poetry into the pavement. 
Credit: Courtesy Write253 

The project team also partnered with local eastside elementary and high schools to beautify the new shared-use path. Students from Lister, Lincoln, Stewart, and First Creek schools used a superhydrophobic coating to paint poetry into the pavement. 

“The project created connections to other neighborhoods and provided access to multi-use centers in the city. Not only was mobility improved, but the project’s attributes addressed multiple stormwater and transportation issues facing this particular neighborhood,” said Olivia Mathison, associate engineer with the City of Tacoma’s Environmental Services Department. 

The new road features narrower lanes to improve safety and reduce speeding and was built with permeable pavement to allow stormwater to filter through the soil. This reduces stormwater flow and helps filter pollution from the water before it reenters the First Creek ecosystem, alleviating 38 percent of the site runoff for downstream impacts. 

“The project is a green gem for transportation in the State of Washington. We are thrilled for Tacoma’s team and so proud of their leadership and commitment to environmental sustainability,” said Dr. Jeralee Anderson, CEO of Greenroads International. 

This is the fifth certified Greenroads project in Tacoma, reinforcing the city’s commitment to environmental policy leadership. Tacoma is a Greenroads member and was the first to adopt a resolution establishing the city as a “Green Roads Community” by creating its roads and infrastructure as “models of environmental, economic, and social stewardship,” according to Resolution 38945. 

“The Greenroads Certification experience was both challenging and rewarding. Initially, the breadth of project requirements and core credits felt overwhelming and we quickly realized this process involved careful documentation and planning to demonstrate the project’s sustainable attributes. While the workload was greater than we expected, the experience provided many learning opportunities to understand our environmental impact on our community,” Mathison said. 

The $4.5 million project was funded with a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology, the City of Tacoma’s Public Works’ voter approved Streets Initiative Fund, the Environmental Services Department’s Surface Water Fund, and the Tacoma Water Bond Fund. 

Numerous unique partnerships across organizations and the community helped to create a valuable asset for the Eastside Tacoma Neighborhood. The construction and design of the project was created by a partnership between the City of Tacoma’s Environmental Services, Public Works, and Public Utilities Departments, along with the Washington Department of Ecology, KPG, GeoDesign, Northwest Cascade Inc., Totem Electric, Miles Resources, Silver Streak Inc., AESI, and Watershed Environmental Solutions, LLC. 

The project received the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association’s “2018 Innovative Stormwater Project Award” and Washington Asphalt Pavement Association’s “2019 Special Innovative Pavement for Western WA.” It also placed third in the National Association of Flood Stormwater Management Agencies’ “2018 Green Infrastructure Award” for cities with medium and large populations.

There are currently more than 130 projects registered for the Greenroads Project Rating Program in 11 states and eight countries valued at more than $32 billion USD. Washington State has the most certified Greenroads in the world, and the City of Tacoma’s project is the 29th to certify in the state since the program began in 2011. 

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