Center for Sustainable Communities undertakes stormwater management study along I-95

A map of the I-95 Corridor in Philadelphia

The Center for Sustainable Communities has undertaken a multi-year project to evaluate stormwater control structures along the heavily traveled I-95 Corridor. Supported by a $1.8 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the two-year study will examine stormwater management best practices with the intent of helping to improve water quality in the municipalities along the corridor.

Temple and Villanova universities will implement an “applied research program to assist and inform PennDOT and its consultants on stormwater management design and maintenance practices implemented as part of the I-95/Girard Avenue Interchange (GIR) project,” according to Susan Spinella Sacks, Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities.

“The research program will include monitoring and assessment of the stormwater management practices (SMPs) implemented during the GIR2 construction phase,” she said. “The research is intended to inform PennDOT of design and maintenance improvements in the later construction phases.”

The I-95 project includes faculty, staff and students from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture in the Tyler School of Art’s Division of Architecture and Environmental Design, the College of Science and Technology and the College of Engineering.

“With Philadelphia’s combined stormwater and sewer system, everything goes to the (treatment) plants,” said Dr. Jonathan Nyquist, the Weeks Chair in Environmental Geology in Temple’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science. “You can’t replumb the entire city but you need to determine how not to overwhelm the treatment plants. It takes a multi-faceted approached — green roof gardens, infiltration and in the case of this study bioswales along the I-95 corridor.”

At Temple University Ambler, Horticulture Assistant Professor Dr. Sasha Eisenman is studying the survivability of different plant species that could be planted as part of the I-95 stormwater management system.

“We’re exploring the health and physiological aspects of the plants in the bioswales,” he said. “Moving forward, we’ll be examining survival rates and both the environmental and manmade impacts on the plants.”

Bioswales, Eisenman said are “very dynamic systems and hard to control.”

“Better understanding of plant performance in these difficult environments will inform the selection process, so that the best adapted plant species are utilized in the future phases of I-95 corridor construction,” he said.

Evaluating the stormwater management structures that have been put in place can influence future design, said Dr. Laura Toran, Professor of Earth and Environmental Science in the College of Science and Technology.

“Hopefully the impact of our research will be improved stormwater controls,” she said. “This is a multi-disciplinary, multi-college project that provides a lot of opportunities for long term study.”