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14 Oct, 2008

Permeable Alleys in Chicago

Posted by: Skylar In: Stormwater

An article from stormh20.com covers an interesting story about the use of permeable pavement in some of Chicago’s aging alleys.  The article goes quite in-depth about the issues encountered in the design and implementation of the new permeable alleys.

The city started out with a select few pilot projects, and upon completion they proved to be a very positive improvement:

It was soon obvious that the pilot sites were not only successful in their locations, but worth repeating in more alleys. Asked what surprised her about this project, Attarian says, “Three big things.”

The first surprise was “the tremendous response from the design community and the public at large,” she says. “This project has proven to be transformational for CDOT and for the local permeable pavement market. Cities both around the region and around the world have spoken to us about starting their own Green Alley Programs and trying permeable pavements. I feel we have started a kind of revolution.”

Attarian’s second surprise was that the program “gave CDOT the confidence to try many new sustainable strategies, including permeable pavers in parkways, permeable parking lanes, permeable parking lots with bioswales, and ground tire rubber in our residential and arterial resurfacing mix designs.”

Her third surprise was how quickly the program “went from pilot to policy.” She recalls, “In 2006, we did the first pilots. By the next year, every alley we built contained at least one of the sustainable strategies we piloted, and that has been true ever since.”

It’s encouraging to read such positive feedback for a project that implements a set of relatively new sustainable technologies.  The municipality took a step outside of the ordinary in an attempt to test out some new and interesting design alternatives, and it sounds like they were rewarded for their efforts.

The new projects have also created some new documentation for permeable pavement design, and includes additional monitoring to see how the pavement holds up in future years.  This monitoring will help determine how the structural capacity of the pavement holds up in the future, as well as whether or not the permeability of the pavement deteriorates significantly with time.

[Chicago's Green Alleys]

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