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October 16, 2007 > New Bay Street Parking Lot Goes Green

New Bay Street Parking Lot Goes Green

By Emma Victoria G. Blanco

The first phase of the Bay Street Streetscape Project, the redevelopment of the Bay street parking lot, will be completed by the end of this year. With this project located at the intersection of Papazian Way and Bay Street, Fremont will be one of the first (if not the first) Bay Area city to construct an eco-friendly parking lot.

What's so special about a parking lot? For starters, it is being constructed out of porous asphalt. Porous asphalt attracted the City's engineers as well as the Fremont Redevelopment Agency because of its ability to manage storm water in an environmentally sustainable manner. When rain water falls on porous asphalt it goes through the pavement and into a gravel storage bed. The storage bed holds the water until it gradually filters into the soil; thus reducing the amount of excess rain water that enters the City's storm drain system. That reduction will improve water quality by minimizing the amount of impurities that may enter the city's storm drains or the San Francisco Bay.

Although the technology is not new, only recently has it garnered attention on the West Coast. Fremont city officials and staff consulted with Cahill Associates (a Pennsylvania-based engineering firm that specializes in porous asphalt technology) to explore the advantages of using porous asphalt and found that the benefits outweighed the disadvantages.

According to the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), porous asphalt has a life span of more than twenty years, shows "little if any cracking or pothole problems, and retains its ability to handle rain water for many years." In fact, the only disadvantage, according to Carol Anne Painter, Redevelopment Project Manager for the City of Fremont's Redevelopment Agency, was the potential cost. Yet even though the porous asphalt is more expensive than traditional asphalt, the net cost ends up being relatively the same and the city will be able to save money by minimizing the addition to and long-term maintenance of underground piping.

The Bay Street Streetscape Project is funded predominantly by the City of Fremont's tax increment funds through the Redevelopment Agency. Other funding sources include PG&E funds, County Measure B funds and three new grants. The grants include $1.57 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), awarded last year for the third phase of the project, and a $626,000 grant from the Housing Community Development (HCD), $270,000 of which has been earmarked to help offset some of the parking lot costs. The HCD Grant, issued in Nov. 2006, was awarded to the City of Fremont for its commitment to produce affordable housing units.

When completed, the new parking lot will be immediately available for use by Irvington businesses and local residents, and serve as a place of gathering for community events (such as movie nights and holiday festivals). Painter states, "It's a great opportunity for the City of Fremont to provide some leadership around the Bay Area for innovative green techniques."

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