Posted by Karina Ricks, DDOT Associate Director, Policy, Planning and Sustainability Administration (and former Great Streets Program Manager)
“To struggle and battle and overcome and absolutely defeat every force designed against us is the only way to achieve.” – Nannie Helen Burroughs
Ms. Burroughs was a tenacious, committed, energetic and tough as nails reformer who at every opportunity strove to raise up the quality of life for her community. Those same characteristics can be said of the neighborhoods and communities lining the street named in her honor.
Yesterday, the District Department of Transportation contributed in some small measure to her legacy and the future of these northeast DC communities with the initiation of a major streetscape along the corridor – Great Street worthy of a great lady.
The Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue Great Street project marks a new era for the District Department of Transportation in looking to enhance communities not only economically and with transportation efficiency, but also with an eye toward the environment – both social and natural. The project evolved through the vision and guidance of local neighborhood leaders who have worked for more than a decade to restore and revitalize the Watts Branch stream that runs parallel to the corridor and the new Marvin Gaye Park that surrounds it.
Transportation infrastructure – roads, sidewalks, alleys, and the like – account for roughly 1/3 of the land area in any urban neighborhood. That’s a lot of land which is usually covered in a lot of pavement which means a lot of stormwater runoff leading to soil erosion, stream contamination, and other unfortunate consequences. Not this time, or at least that is the hope and vision.
Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue will be our first truly green street featuring significant low-impact design (LID) landscape features that will capture the stormwater and hold it after major rains preventing the surge of stormwater from rushing into the streambed while keeping it off the roadway and sidewalks. These features are attractive as well as functional giving the corridor a significant streetscape enhancement and potentially a competitive advantage in attracting neighborhood serving retail and community amenities. The Nannie Helen Burroughs Great Street project is a prime example of how DDOT’s recently launched Sustainability Plan will significantly change how DDOT approaches and designs infrastructure and streetscape projects throughout the city.
But sustainability doesn’t just mean a healthy stream, it means a healthy and economically viable community as well. It means jobs. So called “green jobs” are an emerging industry and one that the Washington Region is just beginning to tap into. While low maintenance, these LID features are by no means “no maintenance.” Maintenance will be necessary and will require some level of specialization, which means now is the time to start developing these skills among the local workforce. Thanks to new and stricter stormwater regulations, DDOT, the private developers and other builders will need to install and utilize more and more of these features which means demand for “green infrastructure” maintenance jobs will grow over time. DDOT is pleased to participate in a number of partnerships with EPA, the District Department of Environment, and multiple non-profits aimed at training and building this future workforce.
Nannie Helen Burroughs championed education leading to employment. It is fitting that the streetscape now beginning also provides an opportunity to learn skills for an emerging future employment sector.