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Where Lakefront Trail construction stands: now entering the homestretch

A completed stretch of the Lakefront Trail between Oak and Ohio. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times

It’s the homestretch for construction of Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.

Construction work to create separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians on the Lakefront Trail — all 18 miles of it — is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Major portions of the trail on the North Side and the South Side already have been finished.

Even a large chunk of the Navy Pier flyover project, which has drawn criticism for taking longer to build than the Golden Gate Bridge, will be open by year’s end. The ramp leading to the bridge over the Chicago River should be open by then, according to Chicago Department of Transportation officials, though they won’t promise an exact date. Additional portions aren’t expected to open until at least next year.

Be prepared for some confusing detours this summer.

That’s “the nature of the beast,” says Linda Daly, deputy director of planning and construction for the Chicago Park District, the agency behind the Lakefront Trail project. “I think we’re making good progress. People are getting familiar with the changes even more compared to last summer. I am seeing the right people on the right trails.”

The goal of the work is to lessen the chances for collisions on one of the nation’s busiest trails, used by 100,000 people a day on summer weekends.

A $12 million gift from billionaire Ken Griffin — Illinois’ richest man and an avid cyclist — will cover the cost of the trail-separation project north and south of the Navy Pier flyover.

Here’s where construction stands, starting at the north end of the trail at Ardmore Avenue in Edgewater to the south end at 71st Street in South Shore:

Ardmore to Montrose

Under construction, slated to be done by summer’s end.

A week-old detour between Montrose and Foster routes bike and pedestrian traffic to a newly paved trail east of the existing trail along Lake Shore Drive. The existing trail will be closed and rehabbed for pedestrian use only. The newly paved trail, which ultimately will carry only bike traffic, is to be used by everyone until work is completed late this summer.

Montrose to Fullerton

Engineering plans done, bids being sought.

Construction will begin this summer and wrap up by the end of this year.

Expect detours along this stretch, which presented design challenges due to the scarcity of land, which caused some pinch points.

Fullerton to North Avenue

Construction complete, trail open.

This is one of the busiest stretches of the trail.

A completed section of the Lakefront Trail between Fullerton and North Avenue. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times
A completed section of the Lakefront Trail between Fullerton and North Avenue. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times

North to Oak

Construction began this spring, scheduled to be completed by fall.

Oak to Ohio

Construction complete, now open.

A completed stretch of the Lakefront Trail between Oak and Ohio. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times
A completed stretch of the Lakefront Trail between Oak and Ohio. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times

Navy Pier flyover (Ohio to Randolph)

Barricade at entrance to the flyover ramp at Ohio to be removed by year’s end.

Unlike the rest of the trail, this stretch isn’t managed by the park district.

The ramp will carry users over two busy intersections and connect to the Lake Shore Drive underpass. But construction to widen the underpass at the Chicago River — which is congested and slow — from eight feet to 16 feet will begin after the summer and likely last through most of 2019.

This is the barricaded entrance to the Navy Pier flyover. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times
This is the barricaded entrance to the Navy Pier flyover. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times

Randolph to Roosevelt

Fencing removed in recent days along this stretch of newly paved waterfront path for pedestrians between Monroe and the Shedd Aquarium, and the segment is usable.

All that’s left to be done: striping, signage and landscaping, to be completed in the next couple of weeks.

The existing path parallel to Lake Shore Drive is open for cyclists.

Roosevelt to 31st

Designs complete, construction slated to begin in August and end by the end of the year.

31st to 41st

Construction complete, trail open.

41st to 55th

Begun last summer, construction to wrap up by the end of this summer.

Freshly paved asphalt running along Lake Shore Drive is off-limits for now, soon will carry cyclists exclusively.

A portion of the Lakefront Trail between 41st and 55th currently under construction. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times
A portion of the Lakefront Trail between 41st and 55th currently under construction. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times

55th to 71st

Last segment to be done.

Construction is to start in September and finish by year’s end.

Southern end of the Lakefront Trail. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times
Southern end of the Lakefront Trail. | Mitch Dudek / Sun-Times