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Concrete Falls Off Busy Western-Belmont Bridge, but Demolition Months Away

By Patty Wetli | December 3, 2014 5:30am
 The Western-Belmont overpass already is shedding concrete, and demolition isn't set until next spring or summer.
The Western-Belmont overpass already is shedding concrete, and demolition isn't set until next spring or summer.
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Marc Hochmuth

ROSCOE VILLAGE — The Western-Belmont overpass isn't slated for demolition until late spring or summer of next year, but it's already shedding concrete chunks.

DNAinfo Chicago obtained photos taken Sunday by a Roscoe Village resident of a pile of debris that fell from the dilapidated bridge.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales confirmed that it responded to a call Sunday morning, cleaned up the site, removed additional loose material and conducted a follow-up inspection.

"There were no reports of injury or property damage," Scales said.

Patty Wetli says that bridge regulations have improved in the last few years:

Marc Hochmuth, a neighbor who lives blocks from the bridge, said he was walking to the grocery store Sunday when he spotted the fallen concrete.

"If you walk underneath that thing, it's a disaster," Hochmuth said. "I can tell it's just crumbling. I've walked under it probably 250 times. Every time, there's pieces missing."

So, is the bridge safe?

"Yes, it is," Scales said.

Residents like Hochmuth aren't convinced.

"I won't drive over it," he said. "Now, I'm not even going to walk under it."

According to Scales, all bridges and viaducts are formally inspected every two years, with the Western-Belmont viaduct receiving its biannual checkup on Nov. 23.

CDOT has not received the complete engineering report from that review, Scales said.

The most recent inspection results available to the public are from 2012. At the time, the bridge was labeled "structurally deficient" — a term that does not necessarily relate to safety, but may instead refer to speed, weight or volume limitations. Overall, the evaluation found the overpass to be of "minimum adequacy to be left in place."

For comparison, a bridge in danger of collapse from a single point of failure would be labeled "fracture critical."

Built in 1961, largely to ease congestion around the now defunct Riverview Amusement Park, the overpass routinely carries more than 35,000 cars daily.

As part of CDOT's Western Avenue Improvement Project, the bridge is slated for demolition in late spring or summer 2015. It will be replaced, not with another bridge, but by a five-leg grade-level intersection at the convergence of Belmont, Western and Clybourn avenues.

In the interim, "CDOT has been actively monitoring the viaduct and proactively doing selective concrete removal where we have found any weakened material," Scales said.

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