The long-awaited demolition of a rusting, crumbling pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive at 35th Street should occur this month.
The bridge was closed Friday, making way for a new $18.3 million bridge that will span South Lake Shore Drive and give pedestrians easier access to Burnham Park.
James McHugh Construction Co. and Araiza Corp. are replacing the 75-year-old bridge and building a curving 620-foot suspension bridge supported by an A-shaped tower.
The companies expect the new bridge to be open by fall 2015.
“It’s good that they’re replacing [the old bridge] with this new beautiful one,” Gina Williams, assistant project manager at Araiza, said. “The old one just needed to be replaced.”
According to a press release on McHugh’s website, the companies were awarded a construction contract by the Chicago Department of Transportation and were selected as general contractors by the city in December 2013.
The old bridge had stairs, making it inaccessible for wheelchair users. The new bridge will allow for easy access for wheelchair users as well as bikers.
The Active Transportation Alliance, which advocates for safer and more convenient ways to walk and bike around the city, said remodeling the bridge is a step in the right direction.
“In that neighborhood, there’s not a lot of ways to cross Lake Shore Drive,” said Kyle Whitehead, campaign director for the alliance.
“There are a lot of structures near Lake Shore Drive that don’t provide good access. . . . So it’s good they’re paying attention to these issues.”
At some point later in the construction, some lanes on Lake Shore Drive may be closed. But the companies are trying to avoid shutting down part of the busy road as much as possible.
A sign by the bridge’s staircase tells pedestrians to use Oakwood Boulevard during construction.
Williams said the bridge will do more than just improve safety. Aesthetically, she said, it’s a great addition to the city and a big step above the current bridge, which she called “an eyesore.”
Pedestrian bridges at 41st and 43rd streets over Lake Shore Drive are of similar design and also are in poor condition.
The 43rd Street pedestrian bridge is slated for replacement in 2015, according to the city of Chicago’s website, at a cost of $22 million. The design of the new bridge has not been announced.