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Chicago's green alley initiative (photo: chicago dot)

Chicago's Green Alley Initiative (photo: Chicago DOT)

Urban alleyways. Grubby places that only scrappy cats or cop-show perps could love, right? Not in Chicago, where the Department of Transportation is giving them some serious TLC with its recently implemented Green Alley Program. This city-wide renovation initiative will offer some surprising environmental benefits and improve quality of life for residents.

Alleys may seem like a tiny fraction of a city’s infrastructure. But Chicago has more than any other city in the world – 1,900 miles of alleyways that translate to 3,500 acres of paved landscape. And traditional alley designs have been plagued with flooding problems that overwhelm the city’s sewers, plus they can worsen nighttime light pollution and trap heat in the summer months. The four basic components of Chicago’s Green Alley program are effective stormwater management, minimizing heat absorption, creating designs to reduce light pollution, and maximizing the use of recycled materials wherever possible.

Alley before and after renovation (photo: chicago dot)

Alley Before And After Renovation (photo: Chicago DOT)

Using permeable pavement along with proper grading for drainage is a key element of managing water runoff. Paving materials that let rainwater infiltrate the soil (instead of entering the sewers) allow groundwater to be recharged, and reduce unnecessary stress on water treatment plants. A variety of pavers are being used, including permeable asphalt and concrete materials as well as open grid-style pavement tiles.

Permeable paving materials (photo: chicago dot)

Permeable Paving Materials (photo: Chicago DOT)

Chicago’s Green Alley Initiative »» MetaEfficient Reviews