When traveling along the Illinois Tollway in the Chicago area, you will notice the 75,000 acres of the right-of-way is covered with grass, trees, flowers, and shrubs. The landscaping is not only pleasing to look at but serves to prevent erosion along the Illinois State Toll Highway, stretching 274 miles of roadways.
The Authority chose American Excelsior’s Curlex II Double-Sided Erosion Control Blanket for their widening project. Curlex’s product was the perfect choice for a strong ground cover that would protect the soil and germinate seeds on the Authority’s landscape program for this project.
Once construction of the stretch of the tollway was completed, steps were taken for the landscaping project. The slope was established, prepared, seeded, and then the blankets were installed. Where it was possible, the Authority tried to reduce cuts and very steep grades for more successful erosion control and safer maintenance procedures.
The Curlex blanket has performed very well for the Tollway Authority. It offers a nice environment for seeds to grow by maintaining moisture in the soil but also helps with weed control and prevents any excess soil and seed loss due to wind and water erosion. According to Bob Klatt, Landscaping Coordinator for the Tollway Authority, it allows seeds to settle and germinate. Once this has occurred, the blankets degrade, going back into the environment and the seeds can start developing.
The blankets combined with a mat of curled Great Lakes Aspen wood excelsior with a tough photodegradable plastic mesh will remain in place even on rough terrain. Curlex fibers expand when they are wet and when moisture is released, the fibers contract. This natural motion creates a digging effect that produces a superior soil adhesion.
The Illinois Tollway Authority installed approximately three million square feet of blankets on their project at a cost that’s less than 4% of the total landscape and restoration budget. According to Bob Klatt, it is a very cost-effective way for total erosion control.
The Illinois Tollway Authority has used other erosion control blankets in the past, even though they have a long history with American Excelsior. At one time, they used another Manufacturer’s straw blanket that seemed okay. The downside, the blankets curled because they were lighter than Curlex’s blankets. They also discovered the straw blankets would blow and rip from the wind caused by trucks passing along the roadway. Bob Klatt said that even though they want their highways to look attractive, the landscaping, green grass, and flowers, are only eye-appealing benefits. Their leading concern is the landscaping functioning properly. Trees block roadway noises and pollution, and their grassy areas will prevent erosion.