Illinois Tollway Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

The Illinois Tollway is recognizing the 50th anniversary of Earth Day as a time for action to continue to minimize the environmental impact of roadway construction and maintenance by respecting the environment and making investments with benefits for today and for future generations.

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, mobilized 20 million Americans from all walks of life to call for greater protections for the environment. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Today, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the world’s largest civic observance.

The Tollway commits to environmental responsibility and sustainability – from planning through design and through construction, maintenance and operations of the five toll roads that make up the 294-mile system throughout Northern Illinois.

The agency forged a partnership with The Morton Arboretum and the Chicago Trees Initiative to plant 58,000 trees and shrubs throughout the Tollway system as part of its landscape master plan to increase the regional tree canopy and develop new approaches to planting trees along stressful roadway conditions.

Working with The Conservation Foundation, with input from the Xerces Society, local nurseries and the Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Tollway developed a unique seed mix for use along Tollway right-of-way. These efforts are part of the agency’s pollinator program to enhance and create habitat for monarch butterflies and other important pollinators along roadsides throughout the 12 counties the Tollway serves.

As part of the Illinois Tollway’s efforts to offset the impacts of roadway construction on local and regional natural resources, environmental mitigation has taken place, and continues to take place, throughout the counties served by the Tollway. The goal of wetland mitigation is to restore and improve natural resources that are impacted during construction.

This has been accomplished through the re-establishment of historic wetlands and the enhancement of existing wetlands, as well as through stream restoration, the control of invasive plant species and native planting and seeding programs. Wetlands provide a variety of important ecosystem services, such as storing floodwaters, cleaning and recharging groundwater, sequestering carbon, trapping sediment, and filtering pollutants for clean water

The Tollway also is committed to using renewable energy and green technologies. The agency is installing LED lighting on all new construction projects and converting all existing lighting fixtures from traditional high-pressure solution lighting to LED lighting to improve visibility, drive energy efficiencies and reduce maintenance. The Tollway is replacing its 60-year-old maintenance facilities with new facilities that exceed state requirements for LEED Silver certification for energy-efficient design and construction, reusing and recycling at least 75 percent of construction waste on site and using recycled content and regional materials.

Click here for details about the Illinois Tollway’s sustainability efforts.

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