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The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) today unveiled the “greenest street in America,” the first phase of a two-mile stretch of Blue Island Avenue and Cermak Road in the Pilsen neighborhood that is an unprecedented demonstration of how cutting-edge sustainable design and “complete streets” principles can be implemented in the public right of way.
“This 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,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “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 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.
The $14 million streetscape project is the first in the country to balance and incorporate such a wide spectrum of sustainable performance into a single urban roadway. The project was funded largely through Tax Increment Financing, as well as $800,000 worth of grants from the Federal Highway Administration, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Midwest Generation.
“This incredible project has improved the infrastructure and quality of life of the Pilsen Community by creating the greenest street in the country,” said Ald. Daniel Solis (25th Ward). “Sustainability projects like this advance change in the public and private sectors and demonstrate the city’s ability to lead by example.”
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 the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) to drive future watershed planning in the combined sewer area.
Notable achievements of the project include:
Material Recycling and Innovation
Urban Heat Island Effect Reduction / Air Quality
Community and Education
Monitoring and Evaluation
CDOT is at the forefront of developing and implementing great urban infrastructure, using the public right of way to create sustainable, vibrant, public space. At roughly a quarter of the City’s land area, the streets and alleys have the potential to save energy, harvest water and even, perhaps, be carbon-neutral.
CDOT has embarked on creating Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines and Policies that will embrace and expand upon the environmental benefits of Complete Streets and help to create and maintain a city where all Chicagoans benefit from a high quality of life without depleting our natural resources.
These guidelines, expected to be formalized next year, will help improve approaches to managing stormwater, reducing the heat island effect, adapting infrastructure to changing climate conditions, improving neighborhood quality of life, increasing economic development, and minimizing the use of scarce resources.
“We are committed to improving how we address water, air quality, sustainable materials and energy consumption in our city’s infrastructure while creating places people enjoy living and working,” said Karen Weigert, Chicago Chief Sustainability Officer. “Projects like these show that the transportation right-of-way is an essential component for improving environmental conditions, as well as mobility and accessibility in Chicago.”
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