Chicago city officials have dubbed Cermak Road in Chicago, Illinois, the greenest street in American on April 1, 2013. This city roadway includes smog-eating pavement, streetlights that run on solar and wind power, sidewalks made with recycled concrete, and shrub-filled “bioswales” to keep storm water out of overtaxed sewers. The Windy City has been experimenting with greener approaches to urban planning for years as part of a broader plan to mitigate the impacts of climate change: more intense storms and more extreme temperatures. The $14 million project to reshape two miles (3.2 kilometers) of the industrial Pilsen neighborhood incorporates pretty much everything city planners could come up with to cut energy use, fight pollution, reduce waste, manage water use and help build a sense of community. The project amazingly costs 21 percent less than a traditional road resurfacing project and should be cheaper to maintain. Chicago is one of a growing number of cities that are no longer waiting for the federal government to deal with climate change and are instead finding local, “no-regret” solutions, said Karen Hobbs, a water analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Chicago is planting more trees, improving public transportation and improving bicycle lanes, and using more efficient street light bulbs. Chicago says it is the first in the nation, however, to lay down smog-eating cement. Because it’s significantly more costly than traditional pavement, Chicago is using this material in thin, permeable pavers for the bicycle and parking lanes along Blue Island Avenue and Cermak Road. Project manager Janet Attarian insists that while the smog-eating pavers are pretty impressive, it’s the combined approach that is going to make a real difference. Officials hope that this project will inspire others to take advantage of the many opportunities there are to improve our roads. Choosing drought-resistant plants for the bioswales means they ought to be able to withstand the hotter summers forecast as a result of climate change without wasting fresh water. The city is currently drafting new guidelines that will incorporate many of these green approaches as requirements for any new road work going forward.
Source: Smog-eating pavement on ‘greenest street in America’ by Mira Oberman, April 7, 2013