Progress / Science

Sustainable Sidewalks: Reducing Stormwater Runoff, Improving Walkability and Urban Tree Canopy Health in Downtown Burlington

With the assistance of a $11,890 grant from the Vermont Department of Conservation’s Ecosystem Restoration Program, the City of Burlington designed and installed a stormwater sidewalk which fully disconnects a 2010 sq. ft. area of the sidewalk right of way. This section of sidewalk was very degraded and presented many tripping hazards to pedestrians.

Because downtown areas often have high pedestrian volumes, it is typical for such sidewalk areas to be 100% impervious.  Through the use of a permeable paver “stormwater belt,” runoff from the adjacent concrete sidewalk and the permeable paver area is fully infiltrated.  In a typical year, this means that 44,000 fewer gallons of runoff are contributing to combined sewer system related phosphorus loading.

Click here for a video of the sidewalk during a light rain storm.

The overall sidewalk redesign project, which involve the replanting of 5 trees was also an opportunity for the Burlington Parks program to provide a sustainable soil environment for the new trees through the Parks funded implementation of Silva Cells which support the surrounding concrete and paver systems.  This is an added bonus for the project, as long living urban trees with healthy canopies provide additional stormwater benefits through interception and evapotranspiration of precipitation that would otherwise contribute to stormwater runoff.

Final Design Plans for the sidewalk, specifications for the permeable pavers and the compilation of grant deliverables and final report, including a discussion of cost, are available here.

A direct off-shoot of the project was the implementation of a second “stormwater belt” at a nearby location to remedy a compacted and eroded greenbelt at a frequently used public transportation stop.

The City of Burlington plans on evaluating opportunities for the implementation of additional “stormwater belts” particularly in areas of known green belt compaction and erosion (see Final Report).  However, it is important to note that greenbelt locations should always be evaluated for the potential to implement a stormwater right of way planter which may be able to capture runoff from the roadway as well as adjacent sidewalks.  Where this is not feasible due to elevations or to poor infiltration conditions which would require larger investments of underdrain piping, the stormwater paver belt is a high priority alternative.