As the clouds part at the right time and the lake sparkles in the distance, city leaders officially opened the last stretch of the much-delayed Navy Pier Flyover project on Monday.
“It took a while,” Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Gia Biagi said of the project that started in 2014. “But we did it when the funding became available and we didn’t. have never given up. We continued to move forward.
The flyby is the final section of the $ 64 million project, which spans 18 miles from South 71st to Hollywood.
Planning for the Flyover began when Richard M. Daley was mayor. Construction began in 2014 under Rahm Emanuel’s administration and was initially scheduled to be completed in 2018. Tunnels through two 84-year-old bridgehouses were opened on Monday, the last remaining part of the project.
“Completion of this project will make our lakeside shine even brighter,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at the dedication ceremony. “I know this from having had to make the difficult decision to close the lakeside last year during the pandemic. People from all over town have told me how much they cherish this precious asset.
Pedestrians and cyclists praised the expanded outdoor feel of the new trail that follows the bridge over the mouth of the Chicago River.
Tom Ross, 68, of Streeterville was on the bridge with his wife, Carla Ross.
“No matter what time of year it was dark and gloomy and crumbling a bit,” said Tom Ross. “It wasn’t open like that. It will be wonderful this summer to watch the lake.
For years, cyclists and pedestrians have crossed the river on a narrow stretch of sidewalk alongside busy traffic lanes on the lower deck of the two-tiered Lake Shore Drive bridge.
“It would be a big bottleneck here,” said Brett Young, 66, a cyclist who lives in River North. “Prams, pedestrians, hot-rod bikers. There was no light. It was really dark.
Bob Scheidt, who lives on the 45th floor of nearby Lake Point Tower, said he was watching the progress of the flyby from the windows of his condo. Scheidt, a frequent walker by the lake, said he also looked forward to less traffic.
“There were just a lot of people. I chose my hours carefully to avoid the crowds, ”he said. “I have never met on weekends. Never. Too many people.”
A completed portion of the flyby provided for months a much improved experience by transporting users to Grand and Illinois streets, eliminating level crossings.
Construction of the Flyover project began in 2014 and was initially scheduled to be completed in 2018; then mid-2019; then at the end of 2019; then spring 2020; then late 2020. As of Monday, the path has been completely open – although officials said some limestone panels still need to be fixed.
This drew repeated criticism that it took longer to complete than the Golden Gate Bridge, which was built in four years.