Chicago isn't the only “green” city in the Midwest (see “The trickle-down effect,” May 2007, page 36). In Warrenville, located 30 miles west of the Windy City, a plan to improve water quality has resulted in a new way of reconstructing the city's streets.

In 2007 the city became the first Mid-western community to use permeable brick pavers on a public road (Chicago has used such pavers largely on parking lots) instead of asphalt. The reconstruction of 1 mile of Warrenville Road is one of the city's largest infrastructure projects in five years. Although they cost 15% more than traditional asphalt, the pavers are expected to offer better overall lifecycle cost because of their 50-year expected lifespan.

The pavers allow water to drain into a 20-inch gravel base before being absorbed by the soil, slowing infiltration while removing contaminants. The runoff that does reach nearby streams is cleaner than that coming directly from storm sewers funneling water from asphalt or concrete roads.

The project was divided into three sections to minimize traffic disruption and inconvenience to residents. The first phase, which cost $1.3 million, included the installation of the pavers. The second and third phases will follow roughly the same process and timeframe, with completion scheduled for fall 2009.