Ensuring Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability During Improvements to I-95
Since 2005, construction has been underway on eight miles of new Express Toll Lanes (ETLsSM) in each direction of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway (I-95) from the I-895 split to north of White Marsh Boulevard (MD 43). Throughout the planning, design, and construction stages, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) has made environmental stewardship a high priority. Transportation construction projects, particularly large ones like this one, have the potential to negatively impact environmental features such as streams, wetlands, and forests. Taking care of the environment and leaving it in the same or better condition helps to ensure its long-term health and sustainability.
Addresses Potential Environmental Impacts Before They Happen
During the planning process, the MDTA studied various alternatives to help reduce congestion on I-95 from the I-895 split to north of MD 43. A managed lane concept, which will add two new Express Toll Lanes in each direction on I-95, was selected. This traffic management system provides a cost-effective approach to managing congestion, without the need for continued highway widening which would be more harmful to the environment.
Minimizes Impacts to Streams & Wetlands
During the design stage, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) reviewed and approved all plans to ensure that the highway design "avoided and minimized" impacts to streams and wetlands as much as possible. For example, design plans included:
Ensures Environmental Controls Are in Place
During construction, the MDTA's Environmental Manager and a Quality Assurance Inspector have worked with all contractor personnel corridor-wide to make sure environmental controls are in place and functioning properly during construction. Some examples of these controls are:
Whitemarsh Run Conservation Area
The MDTA is committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability and is completing $4.9 million in mitigation efforts at the Whitemarsh Run Conservation Area to help offset impacts to nearby wetlands, streams and forests from prior and recent activities, including the I-95 Improvement Project with Express Toll Lanes. Formerly mined for sand and gravel, the Whitemarsh Run site has endured a complicated land-use history dating back to the early 1900s.
The Whitemarsh Run Conservation Area is a unique piece of land at the head of the Bird River in northeast Baltimore that connects to the largest estuary in the United States – the Chesapeake Bay. Mitigation work began in May 2014 and is wrapping up in April 2015.
Designed to protect the existing infrastructure of the Whitemarsh Run stream, the mitigation project preserved, created and enhanced wetlands. Work at the site will help improve water quality by controlling erosion and sedimentation, enhance the diversity of native vegetation, manage invasive plant species and establish native forest communities to improve life quality for existing and future wildlife. The project also has improved fish passages, particularly near the U.S. 40 culvert, to develop spawning habits for future populations.
During the project, crews completed approximately 800 linear feet of streambed and stream-bank restoration. Work included significant concrete and debris removal and installation of riffle grade-control in the stream, among other activities. Riffle grade-control consists of stones ranging from eight inches to four feet wide that help control erosion, enhance the form and maintain the elevation of the Whitemarsh Run streambed.
In addition to the extensive streambed work, additional efforts included:
Environmental Quality Resources, LLC, of Arbutus, Md., executed the project design, carefully maneuvering around the many critical life stages of all organisms found within the site. One prime life stage that directly impacted mitigation efforts is the reproduction period of the blue-black herring and white perch fish, which migrate upstream beginning in mid February to spawn in freshwater. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will guide and regulate the long-term monitoring of the restoration project.
Other Environmental Mitigation Projects
Following are two additional environmental mitigation projects that are intended to offset known impacts from the ETLs project to existing natural resources such as streams, wetlands, or forests.
King Avenue, Immediately West of I-95
Construction has been completed on a 1.5 acre wetland to filter and slow the runoff of stormwater. Restoration has also been performed on over 200 feet of stream to reduce erosion and improve the aquatic habitat at this location.
Stemmers Run, Within the I-95/I-695 Interchange
This stream restoration project will include the removal and replacement of existing culverts with bridges. The concrete-lined channel also will be restored as a natural meandering stream. Completion of the restoration will create a more natural flowing stream that provides a better habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms, and will help reduce downstream flooding.
Construction Mitigation Benefits
State and Federal regulations require that runoff from highways, rooftops, and paved areas be managed using ponds or basins to mitigate the pollutants that are collected. The I-95 ETLs Project is installing a stormwater management system for the eight mile long project corridor that will collect runoff that currently drains directly into streams through roadside ditches. Runoff will be collected by a system of ponds to improve drainage and water quality.
Whenever transportation improvements are being made, MDTA considers noise barriers for existing properties if future noise levels approach or exceed 67 decibels (dBA) or increase more than 10 dBA. As a result of the evaluation, many miles of noise barriers have been constructed which have reduced the sound level coming from the roadway for surrounding communities.
To help mitigate construction impacts to forests, the MDTA included approximately 67 acres of reforestation areas along the highway corridor in the project design. Over 10,000 new trees also have been planted off-site on public land in Baltimore City, Carroll County and Harford County.
To further achieve sustainability goals for the I-95 ETLs Project, the following accomplishments have been realized:
Independent Environmental Monitor Reports
The following links contain reports prepared by the ETL project’s Independent Environmental Monitor (IEM) and his staff, who conduct daily inspections of the active construction areas to evaluate compliance with the permits issued by MDE and USACE, as well as other environmental laws and regulations. In the chain of command, the IEM reports directly to MDE and USACE and assists those agencies in determining if a violation has occurred, and if so, what corrective actions may be required. Daily inspection reports as well as monthly summary reports are prepared by the IEM for review by MDE and USACE. Choose a project below to view its monthly summary reports.