City to proceed with 41st Street pedestrian bridge project, without extra state funds
An artist’s rendering shows the planned pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive at 41st Street. (Chicago Department of Transportation)
The city plans to go ahead with construction of a pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive at 41st Street after the state balked at contributing an extra $2 million to the $34 million cost.
Transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said on Monday after a speech at the City Club of Chicago that the city planned to go with "alternative sources" of funding to make up for the lack of state money.
"We’ve had to defer some other bridge maintenance work we would otherwise be doing," Scheinfeld said. "This is too important an investment, and the mayor’s following through on his commitment to improve crossings to the lakefront for the Near South Side, Midsouth and Bronzeville."
The city still has to finalize a contract with low bidder F.H. Paschen and set a construction start date, expected later this spring, officials said. The Paschen company has worked on many other regional projects, including the CTA’s 95th Street terminal.
Earlier this month, in a sign of the ongoing friction between Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, construction of the bridge was put on hold when the state declined to release extra funds after projected costs went up. Illinois Department of Transportation officials said the total cost of the project had increased 33 percent because of a "flawed" study by the city.
Scheinfeld had said the low bid came in almost 24 percent higher than anticipated because of a highly active construction market, which drives up prices, as well as the job’s complexity.
An IDOT spokesperson had no immediate comment. The bridge project is expected to create 140 jobs.
The low bid for the project was $28.7 million. Extra costs will include construction management and added safety measures needed for working over railroad tracks, according to the city. The city plans to fund the project with about $19 million in federal grant money plus $6 million in state money, with the rest coming from the federal Surface Transportation Program and maintenance funds.
The 41st Street pedestrian bridge is one in a trio of projects intended to ease access to the lakefront for pedestrians and cyclists over Lake Shore Drive on the South Side. A new suspension bridge opened at 35th Street last year, connecting the Bronzeville neighborhood with the lakefront’s Burnham Park and replacing a rickety 1933 bridge.
There is no bridge currently at the 41st Street site. The city also plans to replace a pedestrian bridge at 43rd Street, with construction planned for later this year.
The state last week announced that it would release $4.2 million to repair the crumbling Lake Shore Drive bridges at Lawrence and Wilson avenues, a project scheduled for this summer. Chunks of concrete have broken off the two 1933-vintage bridges, posing a threat to drivers, pedestrians and the homeless people who camp underneath. Federal funds will cover the other $4.2 million needed for the repairs.
Emanuel has stressed his success in new transportation projects, such as helping secure funding to modernize the CTA Red and Purple lines. New South Side pedestrian bridges offer a particular benefit to African-American voters, who have been heavily affected in recent years by high crime and Emanuel’s closing of dozens of public schools.