CHICAGO — There's a bold new feature coming soon to South Lake Shore Drive that will benefit pedestrians and bicyclists — and give drivers something to gawk at every time they pass.
Construction is expected to begin later this month on a unique, curving, $18.3 million bike and pedestrian bridge over the the Drive at 35th Street that will also span nearby railroad tracks, giving South Siders an improved link to the lakefront.
The decaying, 75-year-old bridge now spanning the tracks and Lake Shore Drive will be shut down starting next week.
The long-awaited replacement bridge was the subject of a design competition in 2005, and construction is finally set to start in two weeks now that a contract was awarded late last week to a joint venture of James McHugh Construction Co. and Araiza Corporation.
McHugh/Araiza is expected to have the 620-foot suspension bridge ready for use by fall 2015. It will become the first suspension bridge over Lake Shore Drive.
In a writeup by the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, John R. Hillman's design is described as a bridge that "exploits the classical principles of a self-anchored suspension bridge with a twist. The bridge crosses over Lake Shore Drive on a reverse horizontally curved alignment to provide for panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline."
The bridge features an A-shaped tower with a single suspension cable designed to support the bridge deck despite the difficulties presented by the curved design.
"The proposed replacement structure for the 35th Street Bridge not only provides another civic icon for the City of Chicago, but also provides an essential link to reconnect the citizens of this part of the city with the lakefront amenities that are uniquely Chicago," according to the association.
"We look forward to getting to work on this important project for the city and its residents," said Michael Meagher, senior vice president of McHugh. "This has been a busy year, as many new projects continue to roll in. We are excited to lead the talented team assembled specifically designed and build this bridge."
The design for the bridge goes back nine years, when Teng & Associates, an architectural and engineering firm that has since merged with design firm exp, won the design competition.
The single-cable, concrete suspension bridge will not only span Lake Shore Drive, but also the nearby Illinois Central railroad tracks, which carries freight trains and Metra trains.
Last month, the city announced plans for a $22 million pedestrian bridge to replace the dilapidated crossing that spans Lake Shore Drive at 43rd Street.
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