Chicago DOT Moves Forward with Sustainable Action Plan

By Janet Attarian, AIA, LEED AP BD + C

As project director for the Streetscape and Sustainability Program and Sustainability Coordinator for the Chicago Department of Transportation, Janet works to turn Chicago's streetscapes, riverwalks, bicycle facilities and pocket parks into great urban places. She has overseen the design and management of over 100 streetscape and urban design projects including the City's Streetscape Guidelines, the East/West Wacker Drive reconstruction project, and the Millennium Park (now McDonalds) Bicycle Station.

In early 2012, the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Chicago Forward laid out the vision and mission for the Chicago transportation network.  It committed to:

Ensure that Chicago continues to be a vibrant international city, successfully competing in the global economy with a transportation system that provides high-quality service to residents, businesses and visitors – a system that offers a solid foundation for the city, regional and national economies, yet is sensitive to its communities and environment.

The report shared concrete, measurable goals to achieving that vision. More specifically, in the A More Sustainable City chapter CDOT committed to continue to be a leader in innovating and demonstrating to the nation the value and viability of building green infrastructure. We have moved forward significantly in creating a more sustainable city by drafting CDOT’s Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines and Policies.

The Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines and Policies encapsulates all of the innovative techniques we have been employing for years and expands to incorporate new elements in our work to further create a sustainable infrastructure for our residents, businesses and visitors. This document also aligns with some vital city-wide sustainable initiatives such as Sustainable Chicago 2015, the Chicago Climate Action Plan, and the Adding Green to Urban Design manual. These high level plans and policies have set objectives and discuss how the public realm can serve overall city sustainability.

Document Purpose & Mission

The purpose of the Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines is to establish an agency and city-wide approach for integrating environmental performance goals into infrastructure design in the public way. It focuses on all aspects of our infrastructure including water, energy, materials & waste, placemaking, economics, commissioning, urban ecology, and climate & air quality. These policies are fully aligned and integrated with the complete streets process and comprise a progressive set of guidelines for infrastructure and the public realm.

The guidelines will define ways to implement environmental best practices on CDOT infrastructure projects and across CDOT activities. The project will also set standards for the private sector so that as private developers propose sustainable practices in the public right-of-way, CDOT can provide consistent criteria for their design, implementation and maintenance.  This will help ensure that these innovative ideas are consistently implemented – improving long-term performance. We have been working diligently with partner agencies, experts and internal city staff to create a draft Guidelines document.

The Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines mission is to “embrace and expand upon the environmental benefits of Complete Streets and help to create and maintain a city where all Chicagoans benefit from a high quality of life without depleting our natural resources.”

Document Structure

The actual document is organized in two volumes. 

Volume I

Volume I clarifies the process. It is organized around categories that we have vetted significantly and feel are appropriate for the improvement of the public right-of-way. These categories are then supported by objectives which are regionally specific to Chicago and are prioritized by our unique needs. Each of the objectives then gets specific requirements and policies which provide specific goals and strategies to implement and accomplish our objectives. This is all supported by a process that ensures that these activities are implemented throughout CDOT and with others who work in the public way.

Volume II

Volume II sets out project documentation and tracking, data and measurement needs and most significantly, strategies to achieve all of the objectives from Volume I.

Community Briefings

We anticipate completing and releasing the final guidelines and policies document in spring 2013. In the meantime we are diligently working to incorporate public feedback. Please join us for upcoming Community Briefings for stakeholders, community groups, interested parties and the general public. We have partnered with community stakeholders to host these meetings throughout the city.


Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive, North Gallery
January 29th, 9-11 am
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Center for Neighborhood Technology
2125 W. North Avenue
January 29th, 6-8 pm
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Chicago Center for Green Technology
445 N. Sacramento Boulevard
January 30th, 9-11 am
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Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning*
233 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 800
January 31st, 9-11 am
*RSVP required for Willis Tower security purposes. RSVP to lwilkison@metrostrategiesinc.com. Please be prepared to show photo identification at the security desk in the Willis Tower lobby.
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Southeast Environmental Task Force
13300 S. Baltimore Avenue
February 6th, 10 am-12 pm
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Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation @ Urban Partnership Bank
7801 S. State Street
February 7th, 6-8 pm
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[marker address=”7801 S. State Street, chicago, il”]Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation[/marker]
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The transportation right-of-way is an essential component for improving environmental conditions as well as mobility and accessibility in Chicago. This holistic approach to urban infrastructure will ensure a sustainable future for Chicago. Please contact Gerardo Garcia (gerardo.garcia@site-design.com) if you have any questions. Thank you for your interest and support.

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