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Transportation Center for
Communities of Concern

Research Project:
Evaluation of Green Infrastructure as a Means to Mitigate Increased Stormwater Volumes in Disadvantaged Communities

University: Tennessee State University

Principal Investigator(s): PI: Dr. Catherine Armwood-Gordon, Co-PI: Dr. Andrea Resch Gardiner

Project Description:

Flooding in the United States, exacerbated by factors like increased urbanization and inadequate stormwater management systems, has grown in frequency and intensity, impacting both social and economic aspects. Extreme events, not limited to hurricanes and superstorms, have caused significant damage, as evidenced by a record-breaking rainfall event in St. Louis in 2022. The rise in flooding is attributed to urban development's expansion and impervious surfaces, leading to exponential stormwater runoff volumes that strain existing infrastructure. A potential solution to mitigate this issue is the adoption of green infrastructure, encompassing practices that mimic natural drainage systems (Figure 1), like green spaces, trees, and vegetation. However, disadvantaged communities, often with high minority populations and poverty rates, remain inadequately shielded from flooding's environmental and public health repercussions, including pollutant mobilization and various health risks. As a result, there is a pressing need for improved evaluation and the implementation of green infrastructure, especially in areas affected by transportation- based flood events, to reduce the impact on these vulnerable communities.

Figure 1: Example of green infrastructure along the transportation infrastructure

The research project will encompass a comprehensive approach which includes assessments of stormwater impacts on United States transportation corridors over the past decade and involves the evaluation of the frequency and intensity of these events. Additionally, the project aims to determine the level of urbanization in affected areas, investigate the socio-economic status of residents within these regions, appraise the existing green infrastructure status, and formulate recommendations for the implementation of green infrastructure solutions along transportation corridors to alleviate the adverse effects of stormwater on affected communities.

US DOT Priorities:

The project addresses the goal of making the transportation system safer and preserving the environment by assessing flood risks along the transportation infrastructure, which can lead to significant pollution, injuries, loss of life, and economic damages. It also aligns with environmental justice priorities by focusing on disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately affected by flooding and by promoting the implementation of an effective mitigation method to improve the resilience of these communities.

Outputs:

This research project is expected to generate information regarding the areas along United States transportation corridors that have been adversely impacted by stormwater. This data will include the frequency and intensity of stormwater events, urbanization levels, and the socio-economic status of affected residents. This research output will serve as a valuable resource for policymakers, urban planners, and environmental scientists, enabling them to pinpoint areas at high risk of flooding and assess the socio-economic vulnerability of communities affected by stormwater.

The research from this project will contribute to the advancement of knowledge in green infrastructure and its effectiveness in mitigating stormwater impacts. By evaluating the current status of green infrastructure in the identified areas and developing recommendations for its implementation, the research will provide practical solutions for reducing the adverse effects of stormwater on disadvantaged communities. This research output has the potential to inform and guide urban development practices, leading to the creation of more resilient and sustainable cities. Additionally, the project may lead to new partnerships outside of the UTC consortium, as stakeholders in environmental conservation, urban planning, and infrastructure development may collaborate to implement the recommended green infrastructure solutions, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration to address the complex issue of stormwater management in disadvantaged communities.

Outcomes/Impacts:

The research project's outputs hold significant potential to positively impact the transportation system and its regulatory, legislative, and policy framework. The evaluation of areas adversely impacted by stormwater along transportation corridors and the analysis of stormwater frequency and intensity can inform safety improvements within the transportation system, contributing to better-informed policies and practices. This can ultimately enhance the safety of communities living along the transportation infrastructure.

Additionally, by determining the degree of urbanization and the socio-economic status of residents in areas affected by flooding, the research output can inform targeted investments in green infrastructure, reducing inequities in the transportation system. In summary, the research project's findings have the potential to positively impact the transportation system by improving safety, reducing inequities, and enhancing infrastructure durability, ultimately resulting in a more resilient and sustainable transportation network for all.

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