​Pulaski Road Enhancements

Location: ​Chicago, Illinois

With infrastructure dating back to 1897, Pulaski Road in Chicago presented a major challenge for traffic engineers and streetscape designers when improvements to the street were called for in 2014. The old arterial road runs north-south for over 115 miles through the city of Chicago.

The enhancements to Pulaski Road at the Albany Park area encompassed both a structural and aesthetic upgrade. Jacobs/Ryan Associates provided landscape architectural design services for tree plantings, light poles, free-standing monuments, and street print paving patterns in the crosswalks. Through a series of meetings with the Chicago Department of Transportation and other community stakeholders, a theme was developed which related to both the nearby Thai Cultural Center and the community at large.

Included in the improvement schemes were new curbs and gutters, widened sidewalks with more accessible wheelchair ramps, permeable pavers, and 40 new shade trees. Decorative benches, trash receptacles, and bike racks also add to the new streetscape décor. Sustainable features included a linear RootSpace tree pit with large volumes of uncompacted soil linked under the roadside verge between the street and sidewalk. Unilock Eco-Priora 5×10 autumn red concrete permeable pavers were used on top of the GreenBlue Urban soil cells.

Local authorities and stakeholders wanted to create a more ambient pedestrian and neighborhood experience along the retail corridor, which had been devoid of any street trees, in order to create an identity compatible with the new cultural center. “While many themes were considered – such as flames, elephants, fabric patterns – custom mystical birds and lotus flower patterns were designed using traditional Thai colors,” Adam White, the landscape architect at Jacobs/Ryan Associates that managed the project, described. The long-term health and maturity of the trees on this street are a catalyst it’s success.

Sumit Construction carried out the installation of the project, and were very pleased with the ease of assembly of the RootSpace system. “The system is extremely modular and great for integrating utilities into,” explained one of the installers at Sumit Construction.

The RootSpace system incorporates a fully interlocking leg and lid system, maximizing the strength of the whole structure. Once filled with a good quality topsoil, this system provides optimum growing medium for trees of any species, keeping the soil uncompacted and aerated, thus replicating the forest floor scenario. RootSpace is rated for H-20 vehicular loading with minimal surface, and passes all engineering requirements with ease. The RootSpace system also features side panels to increase the lateral strength of the system when next to heavy vehicular areas like a street, mitigating against the anticipated high loadings of a roadway. This allows the use of RootSpace immediately adjacent to the back of a curb without offsets.

With the Albany Park area installation being completed in 2014, the ongoing Pulaski Road enhancements have created communal public zones and been a great success.

Utilized in this project were GreenBlue Urban soil cells to provide enough soil mass for the trees not only survive but thrive, and ReRoot root barriers to keep the tree roots in designated rooting areas and away from utilities and paved surfaces.