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Irving Park Bridge Turns 100: Its B-Day Gift Is a Facelift & Bike Path

By Patty Wetli | March 11, 2016 6:13am
 The bridge at Irving Park Road and the Chicago River is set for a much needed reconstruction project.
Irving Park Bridge Replacement
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IRVING PARK — Like a lot of 100-year-olds, the bridge at Irving Park Road and the Chicago River is showing signs of age.

A plan to reconstruct the span, which connects the North Center and Irving Park neighborhoods, has been in the works for a decade and finally has a tentative start date.

The project, including construction of an underbridge path, is set to go to bid in the fall, with work expected to begin by the end of this year or early 2017, representatives from the Chicago Department of Transportation informed residents at a recent community meeting.

Considering that Irving Park Road is currently a designated detour around the remaking of the intersection at Western and Belmont, not to mention a highly used route by Cubs fans, neighbors were understandably concerned that the project would bring traffic in the area to a standstill.

Engineers have taken that into account, residents were assured.

Renderings of how traffic will be maintained on the bridge during construction. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Crews will rebuild the bridge in phases, shifting cars from one side of the span to the other all while maintaining four lanes of traffic throughout construction, according to Brent Kunz, vice president of the engineering firm Bowman, Barrett & Associates, which designed the bridge's remodeling.

Traffic could occasionally be reduced to two lanes, but only during non-peak hours, he said.

The tradeoff: The project's timeline is significantly longer — nearly two years — than if all lanes could be worked on simultaneously, Kunz said.

Improvements include widening lanes as they cross the bridge — under the existing configuration, Irving Park Road narrows at the bridge — and eliminating a hump that allows drivers to "catch air," he said.

In tandem with the bridge reconstruction, a new 12-foot-wide path for pedestrians and bicyclists will swoop along the river and under Irving Park Road, connecting the proposed Riverview Bridge to the south with Horner Park to the north. When complete, this underbridge will create a seamless riverfront path from Belmont to Montrose.

How an underbridge can transform the riverfront: Existing conditions at Irving Park Road (l.) and an underbridge at Foster Avenue. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Residents of a townhouse development built along the river at Irving Park Road — the property abuts California Park — had reservations about the path coming so near their homes.

Representatives from the city and the Park District agreed to revisit the routing of the path, which does indeed incorporate a walkway that's used almost exclusively by townhome residents but was always meant to be controlled by the Park District per negotiations with the developer, according to Bob Foster, senior project manager with the Park District.

For safety reasons, the underbridge won't be allowed to open until work on the bridge wraps up, likely in 2018.

No cost estimate was provided, but the project is being funded with federal and state dollars, according to the transportation department.

An existing path behind townhomes will be expanded to run under the bridge at Irving Park Road (to the right of the curve) and into Horner Park across the street. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

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