Take a Virtual Ride on the (Partly Finished) Navy Pier Flyover

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

It’s taken longer than the Golden Gate Bridge to complete, and it’s still not finished, but the most expensive single piece of bike infrastructure in the history of Illinois is finally partly ready to ride. Today officials cut the ribbon on the first open section of the $64 million Navy Pier Flyover.

Rahm Emanuel and other officials toured the flyover this morning. Photo: City of Chicago
Rahm Emanuel and other officials toured the flyover this morning. Photo: City of Chicago

So far the bike and pedestrian bridge takes Lakefront Trail users up and over the sketchy Grand Avenue and Illinois street crossings before depositing them on the east sidewalk of Lake Shore Drive north of the Ogden Slip. Right now it’s still necessary to use the 8-foot-wide sidewalk to cross the slip and the Chicago River, but the last phases of the project will create a 16-foot-wide path, the same width as the completed portion of the flyover. When finished, the flyover will total 2,160 feet in length.

“We’ve reached a major milestone in the construction of the Navy Pier Flyover, connecting the two halves of the Lakefront Trail,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “The Lakefront Trail is one of Chicago’s jewels, and this investment will create a seamless connection between the north and south sides of the Trail. It will make it safer and easier for everyone to get through the popular area near Navy Pier, whether they are walking, running or biking.”

Today’s flyover opening occurred on the same day as the new $33 million 41st Street bike-ped bridge opening in Bronzeville, and the Chicago Park District recently announced the completion of the Lakefront Trail separation project, so this has been a good month for shoreline walking and biking infrastructure.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has started construction on Phase II of the flyover, building a segment over Ogden Slip and DuSable Park that will connect to Lower Lake Shore Drive. That work is supposed to wrap up this spring.

Phase III will double the width of the sidewalk on the east side the moveable bridge over the river to 16 feet; the northbound side of the new path will tunnel through the bridge houses in order to achieve this additional width. The section of the path over the river will be cantilevered off the east side of the existing bridge. CDOT will also be making structural and mechanical repairs to the bridge. The path portion of Phase III is slated for completion by the end of next, although bridge repairs will continue into 2020.

The last two phases of the flyover, crossing the Ogden Slip and the Chicago River, still need to be completed. Image: CDOT
The last two phases of the flyover, crossing the Ogden Slip and the Chicago River, still need to be completed. Image: CDOT

City officials blamed the flyover’s slow construction timetable — the project has dragged on for about four-and-a-half years so far — on the need to spread the work schedule over several years due to piecemeal state and federal funding.

Despite the high cost and long duration of the project, I was fairly impressed by the structure when I took a spin on it this afternoon. It takes more legwork to climb up to the level of Upper Lake Shore Drive, where the bridge squeezes between the drive and Lake Point Tower, than it previously did to cross Grand and Illinois at Street level. But the tradeoff is being able to skip the dangerous street crossings and, on the northbound trip, a nice view of the lake and a sweet downhill as you descend to the beach. Not everybody is a fan, however.

While I certainly don’t agree that the flyover is currently a deathtrap, the route will get much safer once the path along the river is wider. Can’t hardly wait.

  • planetshwoop

    Yeah!!! Progress!

    The old crossing at Grand Ave was a true death trap. This looks narrow but manageable.

  • Tooscrapps
  • Carter O’Brien

    I think that super narrow entrance is just temporary? Hope so – I think this looks fantastic, I’m going to try and give it a Divvy spin over lunch…

  • Carter O’Brien

    Hit it over lunch, and I think it’s already a huge improvement. Honestly, yes, it’s more expensive than initially planned, but that will be forgotten 6 months after its done, just like the cost overruns for Millennium Park. This is going to be well worth the wait, I am super psyched and only wish this had been done when I was a more frequent LFT commuter.

  • In both directions Lake Shore Drive over the Chicago River is too wide at 4 lanes each way. The reason is Lower Wacker. Lower Wacker adds and removes close to two lanes of traffic north or south onto LSD at the river. If you have ever driven LSD at rush hour over the river you know that It frees up just before the river going south and jams just after going north depending on AM/PM rush version. What that says is that the bridge is effectively at least one lane too wide in each direction over the river.

    We just want the north bound east side lane thank you. You can keep the other one for now. I mean you did all that work to get us up to the upper deck level didn’t you? Why else would you do that unless you planned on giving us that extra lane. Hey “induced demand” exists for bicycles too, you know. Sure you do. That’s why you under built the fly-over in the first place. Why waste money when you know the real plan? Wait? You did waste money. Never mind. Just give us the lane now.

  • Michael

    It will turn into the 606 in the summer… jam packed with pedestrians and moms with ultra-wide buggies walking in big groups and blocking the way and frustrating the bicycle riders to no end. Most bicycle riders won’t go near the 606 in the summer… especially on the weekends, and the new flyover seems even narrower despite the 14′ vs 16′ difference.

    Incidentally, while the 41st project was overpriced at $23,000 per foot, this section of the flyover is pushing $90,000 per foot. Both are political kickbacks to developers, but this one is especially egregious. And yes, not only is it taking longer than Golden Gate Bridge, but the cost are starting to approach the same per foot in today’s dollars.

    That $65 million has much less to do with bicycle riding and safety and much more to do with political payback to contractors. Just imagine how many REAL protected – actual bicycle lane miles on cities boulevard system – with bicycle traffic lights – could have been built for that same federal grant.

    Given the location and local/tourist pedestrian foot traffic in the summer, this project would be much more believable as a pedestrian bridge. To call it a bicycle path in the summer is a total joke and bicycle riders are destined to eventually hate it and avoid it like the plague in the summer.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Funny, before The 606 opened, people were worried that it would turn into the Lakefront Trail.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    That’ll happen once the sidewalk is shut down for work on the bridge house.

  • planetshwoop

    Still way better than the way it is today. Cyclists might have to slow down… Oh well.

  • Deni

    It’s too bad Steven’s proposal from a few years ago wasn’t considered. Even ignoring that it would have been cheaper, I liked so much of what he laid out better. Would have been more space for runners/walkers and bikes both, and better separation.


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After more than a decade of planning, the Chicago Department of Transportation finally kicked off work on the Navy Pier Flyover, a $60 million project that will solve the problem of the dangerous bottleneck at the center of the 18.5-mile Lakefront Trail. “We at the city have discussed this, we have debated it, we have […]
Workers complete Phase I of the flyover, between Ohio Street and the Ogden Slip. Photo: John Greenfield

Official: Reilly Jumped the Gun on Navy Pier Flyover Work

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 […]