Final piece of Navy Pier Flyover takes shape over Chicago River
Long delayed project on track for completion by year’s end
The end is in sight. (Fingers crossed.) The final pieces of the Navy Pier Flyover are coming together, and the project, which has experienced repeated delays, is on track for completion by year’s end.
On Tuesday, the steel supports that will undergird a 20-foot-wide path that’s being added to the east side of the Lake Shore Drive Bridge were being painted “Chicago Bordeaux” — a familiar color to anyone who’s ever crossed a bridge in Chicago.
The new pathway over the river will be raised and lowered along with the main bascule bridge that’s spanned the river since the 1930s to accommodate boat traffic.
Key components to complete the pathway over the river will be arriving in Chicago from Georgia in the next several weeks, according to Larry Mestan, the engineer who’s managing the project for the city.
Several of those components will be assembled into two smaller bascule bridges on either end of the new pathway to allow clearance for the large bascule bridge to go up and down without slamming into the bridge houses.
For years, cyclists and pedestrians have crossed the river on a narrow stretch of sidewalk next to busy lanes of traffic on the lower deck of the two-tiered Lake Shore Drive Bridge.
As this work is being completed, pedestrians and cyclists will continue to use a lane of the Lower Lake Shore Drive Bridge that’s normally used by cars.
A completed portion of the flyover has for months provided a much improved experience by carrying users over Grand and Illinois streets, eliminating the street-level crossings.
Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey said Tuesday that completion of the last phase of project construction amounted to the “whipped cream or gravy on top.”
Construction on the flyover project began in 2014 and was originally slated for completion in 2018; then the middle of 2019; then the end of 2019; then the spring of 2020; now the end of 2020.
Repairs to the Depression-era bridge are taking place alongside work on the flyover project. Some of those fixes were unexpected and contributed to delays in the much-anticipated project.
“Anytime you’re dealing with a structure this old, you can’t find some stuff until you actually start taking it apart,” said Mestan.
The $64 million project has drawn repeated criticism for taking longer to build than the Golden Gate Bridge (four years).
Work on the Navy Pier Flyover continues Tuesday. The elevated walking and biking path is on schedule to open by the end of the year.