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Metro Water Services Improves Tree Health and Sidewalk Safety Downtown


In an effort to improve pedestrian safety and urban tree health, Metro Water Services (MWS) is installing a rubber paving system made from recycled tires in Nashville’s downtown tree wells as part of a three phase pilot.

Naomi Rotramel, MWS’ Urban Forestry Program Manager, choose a flexible porous pavement to meet the challenges Nashville and other cities across the country face with caring for urban trees including tree health, pedestrian safety and maintenance, while also being green.

“I have seen tens of thousands of municipal trees growing into grates throughout the western United States and heard how backbreaking the labor was to remove traditional grates once the tree had grown into them. When I saw this flexible porous pavement being tested in San Francisco and Seattle, and used all over Washington D.C., I knew it might be one of the solutions for Nashville,” says Rotramel.

The pilot will address over 200 areas Metro Parks identified downtown where cast iron tree grates were found to be missing, damaged, creating a tripping hazard, or strangling a tree.

At less than half the cost of metal grates, flexible porous pavement requires little to no maintenance and maintains its integrity over time, removing the tripping hazards that come from buckled grates. Made of recycled tires, the flexible pavement protects tree roots to encourage growth and can be easily modified as the tree grows. This porous pavement allows water to easily flow through it, diverting up to 40 gallons an hour of stormwater runoff per square foot. The project will keep an estimated 2,000 tires out of landfills.

To further reduce the number of tripping hazards for pedestrians downtown, MWS is working closely with Metro Public Works to fix broken or buckled sidewalks adjacent to the installations.

Last May, MWS replaced 12 tree grates along Charlotte Avenue in front of the State Capitol with flexible porous pavement. Phase two is anticipated to begin this week, weather depending, with installations around trees along 3rd Avenue North from Charlotte to Deaderick and on Union Street from 3rd Avenue North to 7th Avenue North. The third phase of the pilot is planned for later this fall.