LaHood Suggests Chicago Riverwalk Financing Will Be Approved Soon

TheRiverTheater
CDOT rendering of "The River Theater" section of the riverwalk extension.

Things are looking promising for our city’s latest high-profile public space plan, the Chicago Riverwalk extension. In an interview Tuesday with Streetsblog Capitol Hill editor Tanya Snyder, outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood implied that a Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act loan will soon be approved that will help bankroll the $90-100 million project.

“There’s a project that we’ll be announcing, probably in the next month or so in Chicago, where they’ve applied for a TIFIA loan,” LaHood said. “They’re going to really capture the essence of the Chicago River, which has never been done. It’s going to be a riverwalk! And it’s going to really capture the great natural resource of the Chicago River and connect Chicago. And that couldn’t have been done without the TIFIA program.”

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LaHood announces a TIGER III grant for CTA repairs and bike share at the Logan Square Blue Line station in 2011. Photo by John Greenfield.

This new segment of riverwalk would stretch from State to Lake Streets along the south bank of the waterway, incorporating six different themed sections delineated by the river bridges. The different areas would range from “The Jetty” fishing area to “The Cove” kayak dock to “The Swimming Hole” water play zone. The riverwalk would also serve as a car-free pedestrian commuting route for Loop workers and residents.

Assuming the TIFIA loan is approved, construction on the section between State and LaSalle streets could start as soon as this summer, according to Chicago Department of Transportation Project Manager Michelle Woods. It’s not yet clear how the city would repay the loan, but one possibility is Tax Increment Financing, which earmarks increases in property tax revenue within a designated TIF district for use in that district. And, as with the Bloomingdale linear park, another marquee recreation and transportation project, the city will be seeking private donors to help fund ongoing maintenance and programming on the riverwalk.

  • Adam Herstein

    Glad to see this project progressing.

  • The first paragraph calls it a “$90-100 project.” That’s pretty cheap! I’ll donate 50 bucks, and we’re halfway there!

    Nitpicking about typos aside, I am also glad to hear that progress may soon be made. But it would have been nice if this project had been included in the first round of the Wacker Drive reconstruction almost a decade ago.

  • Dave W

    Yeah. $100 for all that. And they say Chicago’s corrupt.

  • Dave W

    They’re going to “capture the essence of the Chicago River”? Will gas masks be supplied?

    It looks like a very nice addition the the cityscape, but TIFF money? That’s supposed to be used to help distressed neighborhoods develop and improve. If the Loop/N. Mich is a distressed area we’re the luckiest city in the whole wide world.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s get camping on Northerly Island with linkages to a designated urban trail network, e.g., Bloomingdale Trail, Riverwalk, and more. Hiking guides with GPS coordinates, e-tour guides, fishing maps, etc.

  • The city getting a TIFIA loan to finance an infrastructure project is analogous to a homeowner getting a loan from a bank to finance a home improvement project. From the Federal Highway Administration website:

    “The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program provides Federal credit assistance in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, and standby lines of credit to finance surface transportation projects of national and regional significance. TIFIA credit assistance provides improved access to capital markets, flexible repayment terms, and potentially more favorable interest rates than can be found in private capital markets for similar instruments.”

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