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The end of an era? CDOT promises tortoiselike Navy Pier Flyover project is almost done

The Lakefront Trail now passes through the bridge house. Photo: CDOT

The Navy Pier Flyover bike and pedestrian bridge has taken such an absurdly long time to complete that it hasn't even occurred to me to complain about it lately. Back in May 2017 I noted that the project had already taken as long as the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, and that was almost four years ago.

But, assuming we can take the Chicago Department of Transportation's word on it this time, the end of this molasses-like project is finally in sight. CDOT announced that the final phase of the flyover has now entered the homestretch with the opening today of the Lakefront Trail over the Chicago River on the east sidewalk of the Lake Shore Drive Bridge. Work on the trail where it tunnels through the bridge houses on the east side of the bridge is continuing and is expected to be complete by April, weather permitting.

With the opening of the new section over the Chicago River, the project now provides a continuous segment of the Lakefront Trail stretching for about half a mile from Jane Addams Park and Ohio Street Beach at the north end to the south side of the Chicago River. When work on the bridge houses is complete, the trail will be at least 16 feet wide for its full length. Until then, the trail narrows to about eight feet at the bridge houses. The northbound side of the new path will tunnel through the existing bridge houses in order to achieve the full 16-foot width.

The flyover portion of the project opened in 2018 carrying pedestrians, runners and cyclists over the path's old intersections with Grand and Illinois streets, which had poor sight lines.

The expanded path with a new Prairie School-influenced railing design. Photo: CDOT
The expanded path with a new Prairie School-influenced railing design. Photo: CDOT

The third phase of project has involved retrofitting the existing Lake Shore Drive Bridge with a cantilever structure on the east side of the span to allow for widening the trail. The project also involves structural and mechanical repairs to the movable bascule bridge that was constructed in 1937. This structural work will continue through 2021.

The current setup of vehicle lanes on the bridge, in which northbound Lower LSD only provides access to northbound Upper LSD, is expected to remain in place until April. At that time, access will be restored from northbound Lower LSD to Illinois and Grand streets.

So keep you fingers crossed, Lakefront Trail users. With any luck in two months or so this snaillike project will finally be complete.

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