New Year, New Infrastructure: What’s on Deck for 2018

Rendering of the 41st Street bike/ped bridge over Lake Shore Drive, which will be built this year. Image: CDOT
Rendering of the 41st Street bike/ped bridge over Lake Shore Drive, which will be built this year. Image: CDOT

Welcome back Streetsblog Chicago readers. I hope your holiday season was safe and joyous and, unlike me, you didn’t wind up stranded on a freezing ‘L’ platform in the wee hours of New Year’s Day after a Purple Line run was mysteriously canceled. Now that 2017, a wretched year in many respects but a not-terrible year for Chicago transportation, is in the rearview (or bicycle helmet mirror, if you prefer), let’s take a look at some of the infrastructure projects that we can look forward to in 2018.

The off-kilter intersection of Cermak and Wentworth in Chinatown has long been a treacherous spot for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. Last March a semi driver fatally struck Augustin Arroyo, 56, at this location. In 2017, CDOT completed the first phase of the Wells-Wentworth Connector project, widening the existing right of way on Wentworth from 17th to 19th, including new sidewalks on both sides of the street. The second phase of the project, slated to start in early 2018, will straighten out the skewed Cermak/Wentworth junction.

A building at the northwest corner of Cermak/Wentworth, formerly home to (big) Three Happiness restaurant, was demolished last year to make way for the new street layout. Image: Google Street View
A building at the northwest corner of Cermak/Wentworth, formerly home to (big) Three Happiness restaurant, was demolished last year to make way for the new street layout. Image: Google Street View

Last year CDOT broke ground on the reconstruction of Milwaukee between Belmont and Addison in the Avondale and Irving Park communities, and work should wrap up this year. While this project, which was designed years ago back when CDOT was somewhat less bike-friendly, won’t include new bikeways, at a recent Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, transportation officials indicated that the street will be retrofitted with bike lanes after the rehab is completed.

There will be a public hearing on the redesign of Milwaukee from Logan Boulevard to Belmont, which could include pedestrianizing streets near the Illinois Centennial Monument, later this winter, although work on that project won’t start before 2020.

In 2017 CDOT broke ground on a new bike and pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive at 41st Street. That work is scheduled for completion by the end of this year. Reconstruction of the street bridge over the railroad tracks at Oakwood/39th near the lakefront is also starting in 2018.

The Navy Pier Flyover at Grand Avenue, as seen last spring. Photo: John Greenfield
The Navy Pier Flyover at Grand Avenue, as seen last spring. Photo: John Greenfield

While, frustratingly, last fall the completion date of the Navy Pier Flyover got pushed back to mid-2019, CDOT promises that the first two phases of the project – from Oak Street Beach to the Chicago River – will open to pedestrians and cyclists this year. A lane of lower Lake Shore Drive will be temporarily converted to a protected path to take trail users across the river. (Great idea — wish we’d thought of that!)

Last year the department kicked off work on the Riverview Bridge, the central piece of the recently dubbed 312 RiverRun project, which includes improvements to the riverfront between Belmont and Montrose. The thousand-foot-plus bridge, which will connect Clark Park on the east side of the waterway and California Park on the west bank, is supposed to be “substantially complete” by late 2018 or early 2019. Work on a bike/ped underpass on the west side of the river as part of the reconstruction of Irving Park Road is also slated to begin this year.

This year CDOT will also be continuing work on streetscape upgrades to 23rd Street, Damen, Devon, Fulton, Broadway/Lawrence, and Blue Island Avenue.

In October Streetsblog Chicago ran a preview of upcoming CTA projects, but here are some milestones that are scheduled for this year.

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Wells-Wentworth Project Will Fix Intersection, Spark Riverfront Development

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For years, Chinatown has welcomed visitors with a red ceremonial gateway straddling Wentworth Street just south of Cermak Road. Yet for many visitors to Chinatown, accessing the historic Wentworth business strip involves confusedly jaywalking across the six lanes of Cermak, a not-so-welcoming experience. The Wells-Wentworth Connector project aims to make that tricky intersection safer and […]