Sustainable Streets & Alleys

The Cermak/Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape

The Cermak/Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape is an unprecedented demonstration of how cutting edge sustainable design and “complete streets” principles can be implemented in the public right of way.

Located on Cermak Rd. between Halsted St. and Ashland Ave., and Blue Island Ave. between Ashland Ave. and Wolcott Ave., this 1.5 mile long pilot project demonstrates a full range of sustainable design techniques that improve the urban ecosystem, promote economic development, increase the safety and usability of streets for all users, and build healthy communities. It provides both mitigation and adaptation strategies by reducing its carbon footprint and integrating technologies that allow the infrastructure to address and adapt to climate change.The purpose of this project is to improve the infrastructure and quality of life of the Pilsen Community by creating the greenest street in the country and to evaluate the performance of these green techniques for future projects throughout the city and the country.

This not only allows the infrastructure to perform better over time, it saves money over the life of the project.  This is achieved in part through commissioning, modeling, and monitoring done in partnership with MWRD to drive future watershed planning in the combined sewer area.

The Cermak/Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape has received quantifiable results by setting aggressive sustainability goals in eight performance areas such as stormwater management, material reuse, energy reduction, and placemaking.   This groundbreaking project is the first in the country to balance and incorporate such a wide spectrum of sustainable performance into a single urban roadway project.

Walking Tour Downloadable Map

Notable achievements of the project include:

    • The first commercial roadway application of photocatalytic cement, which cleans the surface of the roadway and removes NOx gases from the surrounding air through a catalytic reaction driven by UV light.
    • Divert up to 80% of the typical average annual rainfall from the combined sewer through a combination of bioswales, rain gardens, permeable pavements, and stormwater features.
    • Increased infiltration area on Cermak Road by 5% and on Blue Island Avenue by 10%.
    • Eliminated the use of potable water for all landscape irrigation.
    • Reduced the energy use of the street by 42%.
    • Piloted 95 drought tolerant, native plant species in bioswales and infiltration planters to evaluate effectiveness in roadside conditions.
    • Manufactured and extracted 76% of all materials within 500 miles of the project site, and 23% of all materials within 200 miles of the project site.
    • Recycled 60% of all construction waste.
    • Included new materials with a total of 23% recycled content.
    • Provided a 131% increase in landscape and tree canopy cover.
    • Installed high albedo pavement surfaces to decrease the urban heat island effect, representing 40% of the total public right of way.
    • Used ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel for construction vehicles.
    • Installed the first permanent wind/solar powered pedestrian lights and the first LED pedestrian lights on the streets of Chicago.
    • Received over $800,000 in grant funding from sources including the FHWA, IL EPA, and Com Ed.
    • Partnered with the Department of Housing and Economic Development and Chicago Public Schools to create two public plazas that infiltrate stormwater (including water from the roof of Juarez Community Academy) and include seating and educational opportunities.
    • Installed ½ mile of new bike lanes on Blue Island Avenue.
    • Piloted the first installation of sidewalk concrete with 30% recycled content in the City.
    • Developed community identifier with education kiosks, a walking tour brochure, and a guide book in Spanish and English that provide a wide range of information about the sustainable best practices used in the project.
    • Installed a pedestrian refuge island in Cermak Road adjacent to Juarez Community Academy in order to improve pedestrian safety.

Green Alleys

Chicago’s Green Alley program is one of many environmentally friendly initiatives put forth by CDOT.  The 25th Ward is proud to have several throughout the ward.

Green alleys incorporate a variety of characteristics:

  • Permeable pavements (asphalt, concrete or pavers) that allow stormwater to filter through the pavement and drain into the ground, instead of collecting on hard surfaces or draining into the sewer system. The pavement can be used on the full width of an alley, or simply in a center trench.
  • Open bottom catch basins–installed in alleys to capture water and funnel it into the ground
  • High-albedo pavement, a lighter-colored surface that reflects sunlight instead of absorbing it, helping reduce the urban heat island effect
  • Recycled materials, such as concrete aggregate, slag and recycled tire rubber

Other green alley techniques include using proper grading and pitch to facilitate drainage, and using dark sky-compliant light fixtures to reduce light pollution and provide uniform illumination.

Green Alleys are part of CDOT’s “green infrastructure” — which includes recycled construction materials, permeable pavements and other efforts.