Chicago Alleys Go Green

December 17, 2007

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Photo by Fuzzy Gerdes.
Chicago's taking its green initiative to the city's alley ways. The city thinks flooded alleys could someday be a thing of the past.

This downtown alley off State Street may look orange and gray, but it's actually green. It's one of the city's 25 green alleys, and it's made with pavers that look like concrete puzzle pieces.

ATTARIAN: What these have are these lugs on the sides of the pavers which make the gap between the pavers a little bit bigger than a traditional one which allows the water to run off the paver surface and into the cracks and then infiltrate.

Janet Attarian is with the Department of Transportation. The city's also trying out permeable concrete and asphalt which are...

ATTARIAN: Essentially concrete and asphalt swiss cheese. They have a whole bunch of holes inside them.

Currently, alleys are repaved green by alderman's request, and it isn't cheap. Green repaving can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $140,000.
 
Some people are skeptical of the city's intentions. Joe Colon works near the State Street alley.

COLON: They could've went with concrete and got the same result. It's just for show, show and tell. They started down here. I don't know if they're going to do this all over the city. It's very expensive.

But the city believes green alleys will reduce flooding, which could mean less contaminated storm run-off in city basements and sewers.