CHICAGO (CBS) — Summer is the perfect time to hit the lakefront, and doing that is going to get a lot easier, and possibly safer, for residents on the South Side.
As he helped break ground on the new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Lake Shore Drive at 41st Street, Mayor Rahm Emanuel lamented the lack of access South Side residents have had to the lakefront, compared to the North Side.
“You could see it, you could hear it, but you couldn’t get to it,” he said.
The new bridge is part of a larger plan to give South Side residents the same access to the lakefront that North Siders have long had – entry points about every quarter mile.
“For too long, people in the neighborhood and the surrounding area on the Near South Side were cut off from a wonderful – and our national treasure right here, and our local treasure here – our great lakefront,” the mayor said.
The city opened another new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Lake Shore Drive at 35th Street in November.
Officials also plan to replace an existing footbridge at 43rd Street, which is not wheelchair or bicycle accessible. The city expects to begin construction on that bridge next year.
The 41st Street bridge will connect Williams-Davis Park to Oakwood Beach with a curving span that is fully accessible, with ramps for bicycles and wheelchairs.
Emergency vehicles also will be able to use the bridge to get to and from the lakefront.
“We will have just one more access to the lakefront, to Burnham Park, that people have been talking about for the last 40 years,” said Shirley Newsome, vice chair of the Community Development Commission, and president of the South East Chicago Commission.
Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey said construction of the bridge will cost $28.7 million, under a contract with F.H. Paschen. Additional costs for “construction management” and safety measures needed for building over railroad tracks that run alongside Lake Shore Drive will bring the total cost of the project to about $33 million, Claffey said.
The mayor said the bulk of the funding will come mostly from federal and state funding; no private money will be used.
“You can’t do this with fairy dust. You need real resources,” he said.
About $19 million of the funding will come from a federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, according to the mayor’s office. The rest will come from other state and federal sources.
Construction on the 41st Street bridge is scheduled to be completed in late 2018. The mayor’s office said the project will create 140 construction jobs.