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Official: Reilly Jumped the Gun on Navy Pier Flyover Work

Workers complete Phase I of the flyover, between Ohio Street and the Ogden Slip. Photo: John Greenfield

A recent announcement by downtown alderman Brendan Reilly that the second phase of Navy Pier Flyover construction was about to begin was premature, according to a city official. In an email to residents on Friday, Reilly stated that Phase II of the $60 million bike/ped bridge, the section between the Ogden Slip and the Chicago River -- which was supposed to start this summer – would begin this week. However, that’s not the case, the official said this morning.

The three phases of the flyover project. Image: CDOT
The three phases of the flyover project. Image: CDOT
The three phases of the flyover project. Image: CDOT

The flyover project originally kicked off in 2014. The Chicago Department of Transportation has completed the $26 million Phase I, from Ohio Street Beach to the slip (a man-made harbor just north of the river), but that stretch isn’t yet open to the public, and little construction work occurred this summer.

The city official said that CDOT hopes to launch Phase II soon but, contrary to what Reilly announced, no one has confirmed that the work is starting yet. CDOT hoped to complete Phase II by the end of 2018, at which point the portion of the flyover north of the river would be opened to pedestrians and cyclists.

Phase III, the southernmost portion of the flyover crossing the river, which involves gutting a bridge house to make room for widening this sidewalk-like segment of the Lakefront Trail, was supposed to start this fall. But the city official said there is no further info about the cost of Phase III or the exact start date. This suggests that CDOT’s goal of wrapping up the entire flyover project next year may get pushed back to 2019, further delaying a project that’s already taking longer to build than the Golden Gate Bridge.

The official said that while work is not yet starting on Phase II, crews have been doing environmental remediation work with bulldozers at the future DuSable Park site, located just east of the Lakefront Trail between the slip and the river. However, that’s a separate project from the flyover. According to Curbed Chicago, the DuSable work will remove radioactive soil, a legacy from the historic Lindsay Light and Chemical Company, from the 3.3-acre parcel.

CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey said the department doesn’t yet have an update on the flyover schedule. Reilly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update 10/10/17 4:30 PM: Martha Donnelly, an assistant to Alderman Reilly, says that CDOT recently confirmed the following passage from Friday's email is accurate:

Construction Impact: Residents can expect to see construction fence and temporary traffic control installation beginning next Tuesday, October 10th, in the area adjacent to the Ogden Slip.

Pedestrian Impact: The stairs adjacent to northbound Lower Lake Shore Drive will be closed and users of the path below Lake Shore Drive will be detoured onto Illinois via the stairs and sidewalk adjacent to southbound Lower Lake Shore Drive.

Therefore, Donnelly argued, the headline from Reilly's Friday newsletter "Navy Pier Flyover Update - Segment 2 Work Commences Next Week!" was correct. The newsletter also states that "Segment 2 over DuSable Park has been awarded and work will commence shortly."

However, the city official I spoke to this morning said that, while the contract has, in fact, been awarded, no one has confirmed that construction on Phase II is starting yet, so it was premature for the alderman to announce that "Segment 2 Work Commences [This] Week."

Granted, this discussion is something of an exercise in semantics. But the bottom line is, we shouldn't expect to see actual construction begin on Phase II -- which was supposed to start this summer -- in the immediate future.

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