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Chicago, Illinois: Pilsen Sustainable Streets

City: Chicago
Country / US State / US Territory: Illinois
Type of Solution: Streets and Parking Lots
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Public Health and Safety; Water Security and Quality; Diverse Transportation; Public Education; Public Education and Awareness; Community Wellbeing and Quality of Life

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) implemented the Pilsen Sustainable Streets project in 2012. The project uses permeable pavement and green infrastructure, such as bioswales and rain gardens, manage projected increases in heavy precipitation and flooding. Stormwater filtration helps to remove pollutants, improving water quality. The City of Chicago has a combined sewer system, making the ability to effectively manage stormwater essential to protecting public health.

Additionally, green infrastructure contributes to improved air quality and urban cooling, counteracting extreme temperatures and the urban heat island effect. The area of vegetative landscapes and tree canopy were increased by 131%, providing more shaded areas, lowering the temperature, and increasing stormwater filtration. Increased shade and lowered temperatures improves comfort of community members and improves public health.

The project also resulted in creation of social value. A pedestrian refuge island was installed in Cermak Road and curb-corner extensions were created to improve pedestrian safety. Community outreach and education is another key feature of the project. Educational kiosks, a walking tour brochure, and a guidebook are available for community members to learn about the sustainable best practices employed by the project. These kiosks are powered by solar and wind energy.

Fig: Example of green infrastructure used in Pilsen Sustainable Streets project (Retrieved from https://www.wightco.com/projects/cermak-road-streetscape)

Fig: LED light pole and educational kiosk (Retrieved from https://iitbuildingscience.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/greenest-sustainable-street-in-america/)

Fig: Walking tour educational brochure (Retrieved from https://www.wightco.com/projects/cermak-road-streetscape)

Sources: The Adaptation Clearinghouse. (May 13, 2016). Pilsen Sustainable Streets (Chicago, Illinois Department of Transportation. Retrieved from http://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/pilsen-sustainable-streets-chicago-illinois-department-of-transporation.html

The City of Chicago. (October 9, 2012). Transportation: City Unveils “Greenest Street in America” in Pilsen Neighborhood. Retrieved from https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/conservation_outreachgreenprograms/news/2012/oct/cdot_opens_the_pilsensustainablestreet.html.

Rotenberk, L. (October 8, 2012). The greenest mile: Chicago pushes the limits on sustainable streets. Grist Magazine. Retrieved from https://grist.org/cities/the-greenest-mile-chicago-pushes-the-limits-on-sustainable-streets/