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Gonzaga Students Lead in Porous Paving Study

Paige Browning
Spokane Public Radio

Some Gonzaga University engineering students won't have far to go to do field testing in an unusual new lab. The experiments will be conducted right outside the university's front door, on Sharp Avenue.

The City of Spokane and Gonzaga have hooked up to test porous pavement as a way to limit storm water runoff which finds its way into the Spokane River at the university's back door.

With the help of a $1.5 million grant from the state ecology department, the city plans to re-pave part of Sharp Avenue with porous paving - some concrete and some asphalt. The idea of percolating pavement has been around for a long time, but making it work has been a stumper.

The Sharp Avenue project will use porous asphalt in a small section of the street, and for bike lanes and parking. Pervious concrete will be laid down in one intersection. Student engineers and city public works experts will watch the test sections to find out what happens, for example, when studded tires crunch across the porous surfaces, or whether sand clogs up the material.

Gonzaga students discovered there's not much good research about the long-term viability of porous pavement, so their work will provide answers for other cities with storm water runoff problems.

Spokane is the first city east of the Cascades to experiment with permeable pavement.

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