Eye on the Environment: Sustainability should be a road more traveled

Maggie Willis
Guest columnist

The Hilliard Transportation and Mobility Division has a dream: to make getting around Hilliard better through safety, science and sustainability.

Led by director Letty Schamp, the division has championed a variety of environmentally friendly transportation-improvement innovations, from managing Hilliard’s bicycle- and pedestrian-mobility projects and installing ecofriendly pervious pavers, to overseeing the construction and design of the city’s roundabouts.

Maggie Willis

She has noticed an interesting culture shift over the past few decades, moving away from using transportation dollars primarily to “move cars faster” toward “safety and moving people, who may or may not be in cars.” This philosophy, combined with a powerful dedication to improving the environment, has underpinned most Hilliard projects, and Schamp relies heavily on data gathering to make sure any changes achieve their intended effects.

For instance, to quantify impacts of trails from the standpoint of health – as well as the environmental and equity impacts of the increased walking and biking trails placed throughout Hilliard – she relies heavily on the work of the Central Ohio Greenways Board, a committee of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission that is examining regional trail use with trail counters and surveys.

The support for the environment extends beyond getting Hilliard residents moving through nature, however.

On the road, Hilliard’s roundabouts provide multiple benefits to the environment above and beyond improved traffic safety.

First, they eliminate the need to use electricity to power traffic lights at each intersection, which Schamp said “is no small amount.”

Roundabouts also prevent cars from idling as they wait for green lights, limiting pollution and saving our fuel resources.

Finally, they slow vehicles, improving fuel efficiency and increasing safety along the roadway.

Transportation projects can affect our environment in ways we might not consider every day.

One important role of our roadways is to clean our storm water. A past practice was to pipe water quickly to our streams, but the speed of the water and the grime picked up along the way can inhibit wildlife and pollute our waters.

These effects may be mitigated with retention basins, but a more modern approach is through the use of pervious pavers like the ones installed along Franklin Street in Old Hilliard. These pavers gently clean water as it filters through them. Remaining debris is collected through the use of the city’s street sweepers to avoid clogging the pervious pavers.

Schamp’s dream project involves connecting Hilliard more deeply to the metropolis around it in an environmentally friendly and healthy way by extending the Heritage Rail Trail southeast from Old Hilliard down to Columbus’s Scioto Trail. This would allow cyclists in Hilliard to enjoy downtown Columbus, without ever riding on a street.

Ultimately, Schamp encourages residents to reach out to let the city know about changes they would like to see in their neighborhoods or on the roads throughout Hilliard.

In 2021, the city of Hilliard will update its comprehensive plan, which will include opportunities for public input. Schamp encourages residents to take part in this important process so their voices may be heard.

Maggie Willis is a member Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission.