A green infrastructure grant will be used to install rain gardens along Auburn Road, between Culbertson and Hessel avenues.

A green infrastructure grant will be used to install rain gardens along Auburn Road, between Culbertson and Hessel avenues.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Rochester Hills awarded grant for Auburn Road corridor

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published October 2, 2019


ROCHESTER HILLS — Rain gardens will soon be installed along a portion of the Auburn Road corridor in Rochester Hills, thanks to a $40,000 grant from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

Rochester Hills was one of six southeast Michigan communities selected for a grant through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Rochester Hills will use the grant to install rain gardens — a collection of native shrubs, perennials and flowers that city officials say will absorb stormwater runoff and promote vertical infiltration into the existing, underlying sandy soil — along Auburn Road, between Culbertson and Hessel avenues.

“We’re collecting rain at the source, and with the ground filtration, it’s able to kind of treat that groundwater too, so it will trap the pollutants that might otherwise be carried through a storm sewer downstream into a stream or river. It provides a water quality benefit and also a water volume benefit, because that volume is also not being carried downstream. We are keeping some of that stormwater volume on the site, replenishing groundwater,” said Deputy Director of Public Services and City Engineer Paul Davis.

Green infrastructure funds, according to SEMCOG officials, help communities reduce stormwater and nutrient runoff to Lake Erie. The goal is to provide funding to shovel-ready green infrastructure projects that have an environmental benefit, including stormwater runoff and nutrient loading reduction.

“Green infrastructure is increasingly being recognized for its contribution to environmental quality, as well as to placemaking, economic values and healthy communities — things that are vitally important to individual communities and to southeast Michigan,” SEMCOG Executive Director Kathleen Lomako said in a statement.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, who chaired the SEMCOG Green Infrastructure Committee for a number of years, said the city is constantly looking for ways to find other sources to fund the projects that are improving the quality of life in the city and that the city puts a big focus on infrastructure.

“I’m really proud of our team,” he said. “We’re grateful to SEMCOG for that grant. It’s going to help our Auburn Road corridor, and it’s showing that Rochester Hills is not only investing in quality-of-life projects for our residents, but we’re also doing it in an environmentally sensitive way that’s sending a good message to the next generation.”

The overall $12 million Auburn Road corridor project aims to deliver upgrades including wider sidewalks, and benches, bike racks and street lighting to give Auburn Road a main street spirit between Culbertson and Dequindre Road.

The project involves the complete reconstruction of Auburn Road, the addition of a center median and two roundabouts, on-street parking, improved pedestrian facilities, streetscape enhancements, landscaping and lighting, as well as improvements to the parallel alleyways north and south of Auburn Road, and the construction of additional public parking lots to support the corridor.

“The north half of the street is paved, and the traffic circles are half in, but now we have to do the other half. It doesn’t make a lot of sense until the whole thing is done,” Barnett said.

The city plans to add branding and placemaking along Auburn Road next spring, including gateway and median elements to be installed within the roadway median and the center of the proposed roundabouts, as well as the development of a community plaza, a splash pad and a restroom building adjacent to the new streetscape.

“Of course, next year we’re going to put in the city’s first splash pad and a new park down there in an area that hasn’t ever seen that kind of investment before. All of it is really coming together,” Barnett said.

For more information on the project, visit www.rochesterhills.org.