Lincolnwood plans to build the Pratt Boulevard bike-ped bridge Streetsblog proposed

Looking east towards the bridge site from McCormick Boulevard. Photo: Jeff Zoline
Looking east towards the bridge site from McCormick Boulevard. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Back in April I floated the idea of Chicago creating a prefab bicycle-pedestrian bridge design that could be installed relatively quickly and cheaply every half mile or so along the river and other waterways, between the main vehicular bridges, wherever possible, as a strategy to increase safety and connectivity for people walking and biking.

Among many other locations, I proposed putting in a bridge over the North Shore Channel at Pratt Boulevard (6800 N.) That would make it easier to walk and bike between Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood and the suburb of Lincolnwood, and access the North Shore Channel Trail on the west side of the waterway. This is an especially logical location for a new span, since the closest vehicular bridges over the channel at Devon (6400 N.) and Touhy (7200 N.) are a full mile from each other, instead of the typical half-mile spacing between Chicago bridges.

I’ve since been told that people who ride bikes have been talking about building such a bridge for decades. Years ago there was opposition from Lincolnwood residents, reportedly because they didn’t like the idea of making it easier for Chicagoans to access the village.

Berny Stone, the late alderman of West Ridge (50th Ward), is best known to Streetsblog Chicago readers as the politicians who in 2005 blocked the Chicago Department of Transportation from building a designed, funded bike-ped bridge connecting two sides of the North Shore Channel Trail just north of Lincon Avenue, under mysterious circumstances. After Stone died in 2014, the project was resurrected, and CDOT finally cut the ribbon on the structure, dubbed the Lincoln Village Bridge, last November.

The Lincoln Village Bridge, aka the Stone Free Bridge. Photo: John Greenfield
The Lincoln Village Bridge, aka the Stone Free Bridge. Photo: John Greenfield

Ironically, however, Stone was a vocal supporter of the idea of building the Pratt bridge. During the 1973 aldermanic election he actually formed the group “Concerned Citizens of the 50th Ward” to push back against the opposition from Lincolnwood, calling the space a “necessity” for West Ridge. I’ve even been told that one reason the alderman vetoed the Lincoln Village Bridge was that he hoped to reallocate the funding for the Pratt bridge.

One possible reason there was support for the Pratt bridge, including from Stone, is that it would facilitate walking between West Ridge and Lincolnwood, which both have large Orthodox Jewish communities, whose members generally only walk for transportation during the Sabbath, between sundown on Friday and Saturday.

As a Streetsblog reader recently pointed out, times have changes since Lincolnwood opposed the bridge, including the construction of the Valley Line and Union Pacific trails in the village. This time around, the village is actually leading the charge on getting the Pratt bridge installed.

The Valley Line, Union Pacific, and North Shore Channel trails. Image: Google Maps
The Valley Line, Union Pacific, and North Shore Channel trails. Image: Google Maps

As reported by Block Club Chicago’s Joe Ward, Lincolnwood is planning to construct a 16-foot-wide span, and Cook County gave the village a $70,000 grant for preliminary engineering for the project. Current West Ridge alderman Debra Silverstein, who helped relaunch the Lincoln Village Bridge project, has given the Pratt project her blessing. “I think it would be a tremendous benefit to our neighborhood and to Lincolnwood,” she said in an email to residents.

The design scope of the Pratt bridge. Image: Village of Lincolnwood
The design scope of the Pratt bridge. Image: Village of Lincolnwood

Currently there are buffered bike lanes on Pratt east of the channel, and shared-lane markings (bike-and-chevron symbols) on Pratt between the North Shore Channel and Union Pacific trails. Bike lanes are also slated for installation next year on Pratt between the UP trail and Cicero Avenue (4800 W.)

Buffered bike lanes on Pratt east of Kedzie. Photo: Jeff Zoline
Buffered bike lanes on Pratt east of Kedzie. Photo: Jeff Zoline

There’s no start date for the construction of the Pratt bridge yet, Block Club reported. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to sign off on the plan, and Lincolnwood will have to do a lease agreement with channel owner the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

West Ridge residents are still mourning the July 14 killing of Hershel Weinberger, 9, on his bike by an off-duty police officer Michael Leverett, 48, who reportedly ran a stop sign in his SUV at Sacramento and Chase avenues, less than a mile from the future bridge site.

Read the Block Club Chicago article on the bridge plans here.

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