Gonzaga University seniors will lend their scientific know-how to the city of Spokane this year, doing field and laboratory work to test the properties and effectiveness of a new type of road material.
Eight civil engineering students and one chemistry major will evaluate permeable pavement being used to build a mile of bike lanes on South Havana Street between 37th Avenue and Glenrose Road. They will assess the durability of the pavement, how difficult it is to clean and maintain, the best construction practices of laying the pavement, and its filtration abilities.
Sue Niezgoda, an associate professor in Gonzaga’s civil engineering department, is overseeing the work.
“It’s pretty unique to use undergraduates on this type of project,” Niezgoda said. “It gives them some pretty cool experience.”
The city’s utilities department is paying Gonzaga $63,000 for the work, which covers some compensation for three faculty advisers, lab materials and supplies, among other things.
The students’ work will help the city develop design, construction and maintenance standards for permeable pavement, which will include road work near Gonzaga on Sharp Avenue between Pearl and Cincinnati streets, scheduled for spring 2017.
Porous, or permeable, pavement allows stormwater to drain through, instead of running over, its surface. The city is using the pavement as an alternative to piping stormwater to the water treatment plant.
Marcia Davis, a principal engineer with the city’s integrated capital management program, said Gonzaga’s work could help establish porous pavement as a treatment for stormwater.
“The Department of Ecology doesn’t accept permeable pavement as water quality treatment,” Davis said. “This could help establish it – that permeable pavement treats water and takes pollutants out as it drains through. The gravel layer beneath it also helps.”
Niezgoda said the students met with engineers and planners from the city last week.
“We’re jumping right into it. It’ll be from now until next May, when their big report is due,” Niezgoda said. “We’re excited about finding out what we can learn about the pavement. Hopefully we can show that it works really well.”
Davis she looked forward to the results the students will uncover.
“We’ll find out what we can do better, what changes we may want to make,” she said. “The city will be doing some testing, but pretty much they’ll be solely looking at it.”
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