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Permeable pavement stormwater capture eliminates residential flooding in Grand Rapids

The City of Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids planned to rebuild Atlas Avenue through its Vital Street program due to residential flooding. The city reconstructed the road using permeable articulating blocks, capturing nearly 220,000 gallons of stormwater runoff annually and preventing flooding.

Topics Covered

Stormwater Management


General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2018

Gov Champion

Environmental Services Department

Problem Addressed

Grand Rapids planned to redesign a city street using green infrastructure so it would better infiltrate stormwater and flood less frequently. 

The city of Grand Rapids, MI, launched its Vital Streets program initiative to revitalize aging roadways.

Using complete streets and green infrastructure technology, Grand Rapids planned to rebuild its streets to meet the local community’s needs and the city’s goals.

Atlas Avenue, one of the worst flooding streets in the city, was identified as a target street for the initiative. The flooding was so severe that basements and ground floors of homes regularly flooded during major rain events. It was clear from concerned community members that a street redesign would need to incorporate stormwater capture to reduce the incidence of flooding and prevent further property damage.

With a clear target identified for a reconstruction, Grand Rapids put together a team of outreach representatives and engineers to build an effective design for the street. The design was based on the city’s green infrastructure standards that would better infiltrate stormwater and reduce the incidence of flooding.

Solutions Used

The city rebuilt the road using permeable articulating concrete blocks to infiltrate stormwater runoff so flooding occurs less frequently. 

First, the old surface of Atlas Ave was removed and the subgrade was leveled. After a geotextile was laid down, an open aggregate was applied over the geotextile and properly compacted and leveled. The PaveDrain Permeable Articulating Concrete Blocks (P-ACB) were then installed.

As a permeable surface, this P-ACB also has an arch design in the block that allows for additional stormwater storage during heavy flow events and for areas where the soils do not drain as fast, such as clay. Ultimately the stormwater runoff slowly filters through the aggregate and is absorbed into the earth to replenish groundwater.

Through the project, Grand Rapids proved that it could effectively address the concerns of its residents and build a project that epitomized the goals of the Vital Streets program. When construction wrapped up and Atlas Avenue was unveiled, the City didn’t do a typical ribbon cutting. It did a bucket pour demonstrating how well the street could handle stormwater runoff.

Carrie Rivette, Wastewater/Stormwater Maintenance Superintendent for the City of Grand Rapids said of the project, “This is Grand Rapids’ first omni-porous street. We’ve made it something to be proud of. I’m so glad people are talking about how much better it is to infiltrate. We will be infiltrating nearly 220,000 gallons of water per year, simply from this project.



One of the city’s worst flooding streets can now capture nearly 220,000 gallons of stormwater runoff annually, replenishing the city’s groundwater supply


The reconstruction embodied the goals of the Vital Streets program, showing a desire to use complete streets and green infrastructure technology to achieve the city’s goals


The green infrastructure-focused redesign incorporated street trees and curbside planters


The project’s results capture the importance of the city’s work to integrate safety, mobility, and resiliency in street design planning


The city has not received any reports about Atlas Avenue flooding since the project was completed

Who Should Consider

Towns/cities/counties that are looking for permeable pavement solutions for green infrastructure stormwater capture projects.

Last Updated

Mar 25th, 2022

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