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CHARLES CITY, Iowa --- A permeable paving project that is the largest of its kind in the state and possibly the country has been completed in Charles City.

City Administrator Tom Brownlow said the $3.9 million project, which consists of 16 blocks on the west side of the city, is the largest permeable paving project for an existing residential neighborhood in the state, and possibly the nation.

The project is designed to improve water quality, eliminate the need to build new storm sewers and reduce flooding.

It involved removing existing pavement and replacing it with pavers which are not grouted together. The voids between the pavers act as areas where rain water an infiltrate the ground, reducing the need for storm water structures.

Brownlow said the streets where paving was replaced - Howard, Joslin, Iowa, Spriggs and Hulin streets, and Kellogg Avenue - had needed work done on them for some time.

Also, "We knew that part of town had a lot of what the street department guys called ‘sugar sand,'" he said.

This means the ground beneath the streets has a high infiltration rate, making the area a good candidate for permeable paving work, according to Brownlow.

The paving was completed in October and the streets reopened to traffic.

Even during construction city officials could tell the permeable pavement was working out because after it rained workers could get back to work on the project right away rather than waiting a few days for the water to go away, Brownlow said.

The newly-paved streets now can handle up to three inches of rain without it having to go into the storm water system, according to Brownlow.

He said city officials initially were concerned about plowing snow on the permeable pavement, but officials from other towns with permeable pavement told them it wasn't an issue.

Brownlow said plowing snow on the permeable pavement in Charles City has worked out fine so far this winter.

A few project details still need to be completed, such as doing grass seeding alongside the newly-paved streets, which can't be done until spring.

Permeable paving is more expensive than conventional paving, so even with the longer lifespan of that kind of paving and not needing storm water infrastructure underneath, it was a difficult decision for the city to make, according to Brownlow.

Fortunately, the city received $631,000 in federal stimulus money, for the project, he said. The city also received $100,000 in I-JOBS funding for the paving.

"Things just fell together," Brownlow said.

The city has applied for more federal stimulus money to do permeable paving on an additional 6.5 blocks. Two blocks are adjacent to the current project, while the remaining 4.5 blocks run from the new pedestrian bridge across the Cedar River to Jackson Street. Brownlow said the city may apply to other sources for funding as well

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