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When it rains, Green Street floods, and there's no easy fix
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A truck splashes water onto the sidewalk along Green Street in Gainesville during last week’s heavy rains. Every time a heavy rain hits, the street is flooded along the curb, and the water drains very slowly. - photo by Tom Reed

Even the smallest rains can turn to ark-worthy weather for motorists on Green Street.

Each time Gainesville’s main north-south thoroughfare is hit with substantial rain in a short amount of time, it floods, creating its own Green Street Pool for motorists to wade through.

And there likely is little that can be done about it, according to Teri Pope, communications officer for the state’s Department of Transportation, which maintains the road, a portion of U.S. 129.

Many times when roads flood, the DOT can trace the problem back to a debris-clogged drainage pipe. But much of Green Street’s flooding problem can be traced back to when the road was widened to four lanes, Pope said.

When the road was widened, the DOT, constricted by the historic homes bordering the street, decided to fill some of the street’s drains with asphalt in order to create four lanes, Pope said.

"When it was changed to that four-lane ... we were still under those federal and state history mandates, so a conscious decision was made, using what we’ve got, to put asphalt in what used to be some of the drainage structures to get more lanes out there," Pope said.

The filled-in drain pipes were only the beginning of Green Streets problems, Pope said.

As the historic residences on the street became homes to businesses and families, inviting more asphalt than grassy lawns, it created a runoff problem.

"Whenever you get more asphalt adjacent to a major roadway like that the runoff ... follows the asphalt, you know, path of least resistance," Pope said. "The development creates more runoff, which creates standing water (on Green Street)."

As one of the city’s oldest streets, Green Street’s history can work against it when the rains come, Pope said.

Pope says that to repair Green Street drainage problems would require a complete overhaul, and the DOT has no plans for that.

"We would need to completely rebuild its infrastructure from the dirt up and widen the footprint as well," Pope said.

But that can’t happen on a street lined with protected historic homes. The bottom line is that Green Street cannot be widened and does not lend itself to many improvements, Pope said.

"We are really literally managing what we’ve got with our existing footprint," Pope said.

Working with its limited resources, Pope said the DOT’s maintenance crews try to mitigate flooding problems with routine checks of the remaining drains that line Green Street, making sure they are not clogged with limbs or trash.

But the low speed limit on Green Street may be its saving grace when the rains come.

"Standing water is not the safety concern (on Green Street) that it is on a 65 mile-per-hour interstate," Pope said.

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