Tag: permeable

Chicago is the First City when it comes to permeable paving

The New York Times wrote on Sunday about the Pilsen pollution fighting bike lanes I’m really gung-ho about. They didn’t provide any new information, failing to even mention their location. But they did publish an excellent 3D graphic showing how it works! (The article’s main focus is how Chicago is predicted to become hotter and wetter, “more like Baton Rouge”, and how city planners, geniuses all, are working on this problem.)

First, here’s a photo of what the bike and parking lanes look like now, both made with a topper created by Italcementi that removes nitrous oxides from the air:

Then take a look at this diagram showing the streetscape design on Blue Island between Wood and Ashland (still under construction).

Hat tip to The Car Whisperer – “Chicago may stop paving streets altogether in ten years”.

Readers Ask: Recommending bioswales

The second post in “Readers Ask,” from a planning student in Chicago.

I want to recommend bioswales for my Complete Streets project area which consists of a part of Grand in Chicago, Illinois  There are a lot of surface parking lots over there, and a big shopping mall which is built on a weird arrangement of slopes (Brickyard).  Since I know nothing about bioswales, I’m wondering what you could tell me about how I could go about recommending this. I have no idea what the rainwater runoff issue is over there, but I could only imagine that there would be one, with all the surface parking and weird slopage.

Bioswales are just one of many solutions to water runoff and stormwater collection. Another option is using permeable pavers in the parking lot. The real experts on this are Janet Attarian and David Leopold at CDOT. As a project manager at the Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program, he’s dealt with and implemented bioswales, permeable parking lots, and pollution fighting bike lanes – the works. There’s a parking lot, designed by CDOT, built with a bioswale AND permeable pavement on Desplaines between Polk and Taylor in Chicago (photo below)/

Parking lot has permeable pavement and a bioswale. The site is monitored by CDOT to see how it performs in the winter. Photo by Bryce.

EVERY parking lot has runoff – every parking lot should do a better job managing it. By not better managing our stormwater, we all pay the costs, be it through flood insurance, recovering from floods, or having to build bigger pumps and sewers.

Permeable pavement at Benito Juarez High School in Chicago, Illinois.

Perhaps you shouldn’t recommend a bioswale, but a parking lot that “captures 80% of its runoff” or something through a “variety of methods.”

Bioswale in Portland, Oregon, as part of a green street transformation.

The EPA lists additional Best Management Practices. The Cities of  Seattle and Portland are experts in this. Portland was even able to get parts of its bikeway built by rolling them into the Department of Environment’s Green Streets program, their efforts to reduce stormwater runoff and thus reduce the costs they pass on to their customers that pay for sewer service (like, everyone). I recommend this blog article about Portland’s sustainable design, written by a fellow planning student.

Pollution fighting bike lane, coming soon to Pilsen

Rendering of the project by CDOT. See all photos about this project.

A planner from the Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program in the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) came to speak to my Sustainable Development Techniques class at UIC about adding “green” to urban design.

Among other topics, he talked about CDOT’s streetscape project for Cermak and Blue Island in Pilsen, a near southwest side neighborhood a couple miles outside of downtown Chicago. The project, like all streetscapes, is one of economic development. But this project is unique in that the goal was to look at every element and make each as green and sustainable as possible.

You can read about the project through the Program’s presentation here (Flash slideshow). Please note there are many versions of the same presentation on the web and each my be different depending on their intended audience.

I will be discussing a single showcase element from the project: A bike lane on Blue Island between Ashland and Western where currently one does not exist. The bike lane and the adjacent parking lane (on the bike lane’s right side, as normal in Chicago) will be constructed with permeable pavers mixed with smog eating concrete. Wait? Smog eating concrete? Keep reading!

The bike lane will begin at Ashland/Cermak/Blue Island, a well-traveled intersection for heavy trucks, three bus routes, and many passenger cars. The bike lane will connect Pilsen to Little Village and extend the existing bike lane on Blue Island in Pilsen’s central shopping area. This segment is also a designated truck route and to safely accommodate the parking lane, bike lane, and travel lane, the road will be widened by reducing the width of the sidewalks. The sidewalks here are 20 feet wide, double the standard width, and four times wider than sidewalks in many parts of Chicago. There’s very low pedestrian volume here and very little residential use so the plan is to have 8 foot wide sidewalks, and a 5.5 foot planter, breaking occasionally for bus stop shelters.

The bike lane will be 5 feet wide (including striping) and the parking lane will be 8 feet wide. The novel part of the two lanes is that they will be made with permeable pavers.

This will be the first paver bike lane in the City of Chicago. The blocks will be oriented so that bicyclists feel the least amount of bumps and won’t get their tire stuck in a groove that could harm.

The smog eating concrete’s trade name is TX Active, invented by Italcementi Group, a large, multinational corporation founded and based in Italy. Since the original installation of TX Active cement on the Dives in Misericordia Church in Rome (designed by Richard Meier), Italcementi has developed two lines of photocatalytic cement, only one of which reduces pollutants in the area (TX Arca). The other cement is for architectural uses helps keep the concrete surface clean from dirt and particulate matter.

CDOT will use the second line, TX Aria, in the top half inch of the pavers. The company has tested the product to demonstrate its effectiveness at reducing the presence of Nitrogen Oxides (commonly written as NOx, a family of toxic substances emitted by internal combustion engines) and published its laboratory results in an easy to follow report on its website (PDF). The technical report goes into more details and explains how the process works (through photocatalysis) and what substances their product can be designed to diminish. The technical report is unclear on whether or not all forms of the TX Active product abate all substances. It may be that the maker only tested its effects on Nitrogen Oxides levels.

I look forward to watching the construction progress and to breathing the cleaner air while bicycling to a new destination in Pilsen.