MCKINLEY PARK — Major renovations to a busy South Side intersection have kicked off with the demolition of the bumpy Ashland Avenue flyover ramp.
The teardown of the ramp, which takes motorists over a stretch of Pershing Road, began Monday and is part of a larger effort to modernize the thoroughfare. The renovations, which include new landscaping, sidewalks, traffic signals, green space, sewers and streetlights, will cost an estimated $13 million.
The entire project is expected to last for 11 months, said a spokeswoman for Ald. George Cardenas (12th).
Originally constructed in 1963, the "flyover" ramp allowed motorists to skirt the industrial traffic headed to the area's factories and warehouses, which are accessible by frontage roads.
But the area — once home to the Central Manufacturing District, an industrial corridor that drew thousands of workers from across the city to its factories — is changing, and many of the warehouses dotting the landscape are vacant.
In January, a fire demolished a giant building on the ramp's east side, and the nearby former home to the Wrigley gum factory area is now being eyed for a drastic overhaul that's expected to include big-box retail development.
In a statement, Cardenas said the reconstruction is "necessary because the community and its needs have changed. ... It is obsolete and reconstructing it entirely would require funds we do not have. By removing the bridge, we make the intersection and neighborhood friendlier to commerce."
A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation has said one lane of traffic in each direction would remain open during demolition of the bridge.