Kane County Government
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Sustain Kane

Grounds & Roads

Kane County owns, operates, and maintains 750 lane-miles of roadways, 256 acres of County facility campus property, and 1400 acres of County rights-of-way. Kane County responsibly manages its grounds and roads, but the means and methods used can also impact the outdoor quality of life, the health and well-being of its staff and visitors, and the environment beyond the County’s property boundaries. Kane County can improve the means by which its grounds and roads are constructed, maintained, and landscaped to be more sustainable.

Progress to Date

Kane County does not have a coordinated, strategic plan for improving the sustainability of its grounds and roads. However, individual departments have pursued changes to standard practice which have had incremental effe​cts on the health of the environment, their employees, and fiscal wellness.

Grounds – Facilities Division
Landscaping of grounds (totaling 246 acres in area) is handled by a private contractor. All landscape waste is hauled to a recycling facility. Landscape chemicals and pest management are the responsibility of contracted services. Certain initiatives have been undertaken to improve the sustainable bottom line of properties owned and managed by Kane County:
• Starting in 2003 and again in 2010, 5 acres of property at the Kane County Judicial Center was restored to native landscape. The project initially involved County staff members to help with the planting. The restoration is a multiyear project, which continues to date.
• In 2011 and 2012 a vacant adult correctional facility was demolished after the County constructed a new one. The vacant structure was constructed out of concrete and steel. The concrete and steel were recovered for reuse during the demolition process.
• Permeable pavers allow stormwater to infiltrate into the ground and through an engineered medium, rather than overload stormwater systems or run overland potentially causing flooding downstream.
Kane County was a local pioneer of the use of permeable pavers for County-owned properties. One installation, at the Kane County Cougars Baseball Stadium parking lot, was the largest installation in the state at the time of its completion. Another permeable paver installation is located at the main Kane County Government Center parking lot.
• Kane County also installed stormwater bioswales at its North (Randall Road) Campus during a recent redevelopment of the building and parking facilities. Bioswales allow stormwater to slow down and filter through natural plant material, reducing pollutants before entering a stormwater system.

Roads – Division of Transportation
The Kane County Division of Transportation is responsible for the maintenance of the county’s 750 lane-miles of county roadway, including keeping roadways free of debris(including snow and ice) and maintenance of the road signs and pavement condition. Mowing and other landscape maintenance of County-managed right-of-way (totaling 1,400 acres) is also handled by the County Division of Transportation.
The Kane County Division of Transportation’s 2040 Plan includes a “Quality of the Environment” Objective which contains two strategies specific to County Transportation Facilities and Operational Sustainability:
• Investigate and utilize relevant Transportation Control Measures to improve and protect the air and environmental quality of Kane County.
• Design and construct transportation improvements in a manner and method that preserves and protects the natural resources of Kane County.
The Stearns Road Bridge Corridor project is called the “Fox River Bridge at the center of an environmental corridor”. The corridor project won an American Planning Association, Illinois Chapter Sustainability Award, among numerous others. Nearly three-quarters of the land acquisition was set aside for open space including 65 acres of sensitive wetlands, the McLean Fen and recharge area, and the South Elgin Sedge Meadow/Sand Hill Annex restoration, a 35-acre adaptive management plan area. The project also used environmentally friendly permeable pavements, reused structures, protected threatened/endangered species of mussels, and installed natural and focused lighting to minimize night sky light pollution. Some examples of changes to transportation-related practices or projects which have improved the County’s sustainable bottom line include the following:
• Until the late 1990s, sand was used to reduce slippage in snow and ice road conditions. However, sand-filled drainage swales caused localized flooding, and required additional maintenance vehicle trips and staff time to clear the drainage swales. In the late 1990s the County discontinued the use of sand, thereby reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled and employee hours worked to clean sand residue.
• The Kane County Division of Transportation uses recycled asphalt in its road construction and maintenance activities.
• Kane County recently began a pavement preservation program to extend the life of its roadways, and reduce the amount of raw material used in a roadway’s life cycle.
• The Kane County Division of Transportation has reduced salt use on County-owned roads & grounds in the following ways: –
• Through the use of computerized salt spreaders and Global Positioning Systems, drivers can more accurately spread the correct amount of salt and better pinpoint the application of salt on roads and properties.
• The use of a beet juice compound has been used to help the salt stick to the road and activate salt at lower temperatures.
• On certain Kane County bridges, temperature sensors can activate in-road pucks which squirt liquid calcium chloride onto the bridge deck prior to snow or heavy freeze conditions. Liquid calcium chloride can melt snow at lower temperatures than salt. The application of calcium chloride keeps snow from sticking to the road surface so plows can more easily remove it. And since salt corrodes concrete and steel, two primary components of Kane County’s bridges, the corresponding reduction of salt use can lengthen the life of the bridges.
• An Intelligent Transportation System (centralized traffic signal control) gives the Kane County Division of Transportation the ability to manage the timing of traffic signals on Kane County roads and highways. By improving the ability to monitor and optimize the timing of signals, the County can reduce fuel consumption and emissions associated with vehicles delayed at signals.
• Uninterruptable Power Supply systems have been added at 80 signalized intersection locations to reduce the fuel consumption and emissions associated with vehicles delayed during power outages by maintaining traffic signal operation with battery power.
• On Kane County roads and highways, the Division of Transportation has begun to implement strategies to reduce light pollution onto rights of way. Light pollution can impact wildlife, night sky visibility, and glare onto neighboring properties. All of Kane County’s 115 signalized intersections and 20 flashing warning beacon locations have been converted to energy-saving LED modules from traditional incandescent bulbs.
• The Kane County Division of Transportation maintains the Kane County Adopt-a-Highway Program which allows citizens to support anti-litter efforts by signing up volunteer groups to adopt a section of County Highway for 2 years. This effort also assists in maintaining the operations of adjacent storm water management systems. Currently over 100 groups are participating in this program.
• The Kane County Environmental Resources Division worked together with the Kane County Division of Transportation to conduct several trials of native landscaping in the County rights-of-way.

Grounds Strategies & Action Items

Strategy G1. Reduce energy used through improved landscape plantings Turfgrass is the primary landscape plant used in each of Kane County’s managed facilities.

Turfgrass is an appropriate landscaping material when necessary for active or passive recreational needs, and also can be used for aesthetics to define planting areas. However, public and private landowners are choosing to replace turfgrass with native perennial plantings for several reasons: After a 3-year establishment phase, native plants:
1. Have a deep root system which is much less dependent on watering for plant health.
2. Do not require fertilizer or pesticide applications.
3. Do not require mowing, saving on fuel/energy use and cost.
4. Provide food and habitat for wildlife, enhancing workplace aesthetic.

The Kane County Division of Transportation supports the use of prairie plants in roadway drainage facilities. However, the use of shrubs, trees and tall grasses are not recommended since facility maintenance, cleanup, and emergency operations are difficult to conduct with these plantings. Trees, when strategically placed, can help cool buildings in the summer, saving electricity and costs associated with air conditioning. Trees can also shade parked cars, and create a more beautiful, healthy environment for County employees and visitors in addition to local, native wildlife. Action Items:
1. Identify locations to retrofit landscaping with native plantings in existing facilities 2. Specify native plantings and trees for shade and wellness in landscaping plans for new facility developments
3. Plant trees where they do not interfere with facility maintenance or traffic safety

Strategy G2. Improve site water conservation and stormwater management Rain harvesting equipment is used to collect rainwater and make it available for reuse as landscaping water. Rain gardens and bioswales collect water runoff from rooftops and parking lots and allow the water to filter back into the ground, filtering out pollutants and recharging groundwater. Permeable pavers allow water to filter into the ground rather than running directly to streams and rivers. This helps to slow the flow reaching local waterways, and also allows some water to recharge the groundwater table. The use of permeable pavers can also reduce the need to build costly stormwater detention ponds.

Action Items:
1. Identify opportunities for water reuse for landscaping irrigation purposes
2. Specify infiltration techniques such as permeable pavers and bioswales when parking lots are constructed or replaced
3. Identify landscape locations to retrofit with green infrastructure including rain gardens​​, bioswales and native plants
4. Specify new construction to utilize green infrastructure to minimize stormwater runoff

Strategy G3. Reduce waste & improve human & ecological health through modifications to landscaping services Parking lot sweepers, mowers, pressure washers, snow removal trucks and other equipment consume fossil fuels, can generate significant emissions and produce excessive noise. By specifying ‘green’ versions of traditional lawn and landscaping services, Kane County can reduce its emissions profile and create a healthier, quieter workplace. Additionally, landscaping and other techniques can be used to attract local, native wildlife to a friendly environment which provides a better environment for staff and visitors.

Action Items:
1. Develop specifications for ‘Green’ Landscape Care for Kane County’s facilities
2. Include green landscape specifications in future annual landscaping bid packages 3. On Kane County grounds, plant or specify plants, trees, and shrubs beneficial to local wildlife

Roads Strategies & Action Items

Strategy R1. Reduce energy consumed by roadway operations and maintenance

Action Items:
1. Retrofit existing street lighting with more efficient technologies On County grounds and roads, traffic and street lighting can have a significant impact on the County’s overall energy consumption, in particular, street lights that function at constant (higher) illumination levels. Retrofitting existing high pressure sodium (HPS) street lighting with more energy efficient technologies such as LED, Induction Lamp and LEP (Light Emitting Plasma), and using adaptive lighting control technologies where illumination levels are reduced at times when road users are not present, could significantly reduce energy consumption.
2. Consider alternative intersection designs for new or redesigned intersections Alternative intersection concepts such as Roundabouts, Green Tee, Continuous Flow Intersections, Diverging Diamond Interchanges, etc., significantly reduce energy needed to power traffic signals and reduce motorist delay and fuel consumption as compared to traditional signalized intersection designs.
3. Optimize use of real-time traffic management technologies With the addition of the Kane County Division of Transportation’s future Arterial Operations Center (AOC) scheduled to open in the spring/summer of 2013, traffic impacts on the County’s major arterials will be identified and monitored in real-time. In turn, faster response times for signal malfunctions, emergency incidents and impacts related to road construction resulting in reduction in delay and fuel consumption are anticipated. Also, increased notification to the roadway user of these type of traffic impacts through the County’s and Travel Midwest.com websites as well as third party providers through Changeable Message Signs, GPS navigation devices, personal handheld devices and news media outlets allowing the user to make better informed decisions resulting in reduction in delay and reduced fuel consumption.

Strategy R2. Reduce material consumed in road construction and maintenance
1. Reduce Salt Use Some chemicals used to remove ice, such as calcium chloride and sodium chloride can produce chemical runoff that is harmful to local aquatic ecosystems, vegetation and soil health. In Kane County’s local climate, snow removal practices must be managed for public safety, but may be improved by balancing the use of new lower-impact products with other industry standard practices.
2. Increase Use of Recycled Asphalt & Concrete in Road Construction Recycled materials reduce the amount of former road material which ends up in the landfill as well as reducing the amount of virgin road base material needed to reconstruct a roadway. Recycling materials in-place also reduces the amount of fuel needed to otherwise transport materials to the site.

For More Information ...

EPA’s Great Lakes Greenacres Guide to Native Landscaping

Illinois Arborist Association

EPA’s guide to Stormwater Best Management Practices

Northeast Recycling Council’s “Asphalt Shingles Manufacturing & Waste Management in the Northeast” Fact Sheet