Chicago’s Alleys Go Green

Chicago Mayor Richard Daly, who has already sent a successful  wave of green roofs over the Windy City, has turned his sights towards his next environmental challenge: greening the city’s alleys. Some 1,900 miles of alleyways that cover over 3,500 acres of city land with paved, impermeable surfaces will become the focus of the Green Alley Project with designs and improvements to help manage stormwater, reduce urban heat island effect, promote recycling and conserve energy.

The initiative is a refinement of Chicago DOT’s existing alley program which focused on creating more permeable surfaces. Chicago alleyways, which outnumber those of any other city in the world, are lacking in proper sewer connections causing serious flooding issues. Rather than simply opting for expensive sewer hookups, the city started retrofitting alleys with permeable pavements and pavers.

The Green Alley Program raises the bar with a more comprehensive strategy to implement environmentally friendly solutions to the city’s infrastructure problems. The pilot program has three main focus points which include using permeable pavements to reduce stormwater runoff, high albedo pavements to reduce urban heat island effect and using recycled material such as concrete aggregate, slag and recycled tire rubber.