ROSCOE VILLAGE — As a number of proposed infrastructure projects recently received the greenlight from the city — including reconfiguration of the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection and the Lawrence Avenue Streetscape — some folks were eager to add demolition of the Western-Belmont overpass to the list.
Not so fast.
Despite a blog post suggesting that these were the "last days for the Western-Belmont overpass," Paul Sajovec, chief of staff for Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), said "I know for sure it is not."
You can't blame folks for getting their hopes up.
The overpass, which opened in 1962 as a way to ease congestion around the now defunct Riverview Amusement Park, has long since outlived its usefulness and reached the end of its engineering viability. It has been labeled as "deteriorating" and "structurally deficient" by the Chicago Department of Transportation.
It's been three years since CDOT unveiled its Western Avenue Improvement Project, which calls for, among other things, removal of the viaduct and construction of a five-leg, grade-level intersection at the convergence of Western, Belmont and Clybourn avenues.
Replacement of the viaduct was taken off the table as an option primarily because changes in design requirements would necessitate a much wider structure, which would displace homes and businesses along Western Avenue.
Though some have questioned whether removing the overpass won't create another traffic nightmare, the improvement project met with a largely positive reaction from neighbors.
"From our understanding, it will open up the area, be landscaped, increase lighting and make it more pedestrian friendly, which will hopefully encourage folks to stroll and frequent the Belmont businesses as well," said Mary Markarian, executive of the Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce.
CDOT's presentation referenced 2013-14 as the target for the project's commencement. CDOT did not respond to a request for comment on the project's status.
According to Sajovec, "significant design work" remains, and funding for construction work has not been secured.
Ultimately, the viaduct does carry an expiration date, so enjoy those teeth-rattling drives over the pockmarked pavement while you can.
"They have to do something," said Sajovec.