The beginning of June marked the official launch of the Middle Blue River Green Solution Pilot Project. The $9.2 million project covering approximately 100 acres of southeast Kansas City, Missouri’s Marlborough neighborhood is the first phase of the City’s $2.5 billion, 25-year storm-water management implementation plan.
In 2010, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a State and Federal mandate ordering the City to reduce overflows from its sanitary sewer system, a violation of the Clean Water Act. The City’s sewers, some over 100 years old, are a combined sewer and storm water system. When it rains, storm water backs up the sewer system, and untreated sewage is released into the Blue River watershed and Missouri River. Kansas City averages 36 overflows per year, and it hopes to eventually decrease that amount to six per year.
Kansas City is using the decree as an opportunity to test the effectiveness of the green streets concept. Instead of laying additional pipes and building massive storage tanks, which can be costly and disruptive, the City Council fought the EPA to implement alternative strategies. The plan calls for the City to build bioswales, rain gardens, curb extensions, porous pavements, street trees, and create programs to encourage the use of rain barrels and green roofs in addition to traditional sewer repairs. The project is part storm water management to reduce flooding, part streetscape beautification, and part traffic calming. In the City’s Overflow Control Plan, then Assistant City Manager John Franklin said, "Green infrastructure strategies will maximize the economic, social, and environmental benefits associated with this investment."
The Marlborough Pilot Project is the first time in decades that this once thriving middle-class neighborhood has seen this level of public investment. The plan calls for the replacement and construction of curbs, gutters, and sidewalks, which are virtually non-existent in the area today. Following the recent addition of a Metro Area Express MAX bus line down Troost Avenue at it westernmost border in January, the community is beginning to show signs of revitalization.