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Environmental leaders seek greener roads
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/9/2009 12:00 AM

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An environmental conference Thursday laid out some worst-case scenarios but also offered ways to reverse troubling trends.

Experts at the "Greening Our Transportation and Roads" event, the sixth annual DuPage Enviornmental Summit, talked about a variety of issues including climate change and its impact on the Chicago region.

Research indicates a warming trend leading to a diminishing ice cover on Lake Michigan and declining lake levels, said Jesse Elam of the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency.

Other forecasts suggest "more extreme storm events, more flooding and threats to life and property," Elam said during the summit at Benedictine University in Lisle.

Cutting back on harmful greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels is one way to address climate change, Elam added.

CMAP is developing a plan aimed at making the region more livable by 2040. It looks at reducing congestion by improving public transit, creating housing near job centers and setting goals to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Another aspect of the plan is increasing the amount of open space by creating an "emerald necklace" connecting parks, forest preserves and trails around the metropolitan region, Elam said.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources official Roger Bannerman talked about the effects of stormwater runoff on streams, rivers and lakes.

Research shows pollutants such as road salt, fertilizers, insecticides and gasoline are causing a serious dip in the fish population and changing what types of species live in local waterways.

"Non-pollutant tolerant fish are being taken out by pollutant-tolerant fish," Bannerman said.

Solutions include reducing the number of cars on the road, constructing less impermeable pavement and installing landscaping such as rain gardens and wetlands that can suck up harmful chemicals before they enter the water stream, Bannerman said.

Planners with the Regional Transportation Authority also addressed congestion problems during the conference and announced they intended to introduce a green transit plan that looks at how much carbon emissions the CTA, Pace and Metra produce and find ways to make cuts.

The summit was sponsored by DuPage County, The Conservation Foundation, University of Illinois Extension, SCARCE and Benedictine University.