Fi­nal piece of Navy Pier Fly­over takes shape over Chicago River

Long de­layed project on track for com­ple­tion by year’s end

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCH DUDEK, STAFF RE­PORTER mdudek@sun­times.com | @mitch­dudek

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).

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES

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.

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