WEST RIDGE — Construction of a 180-foot-long, $3.4 million bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the North Shore Channel is officially underway after years of planning and debate.
The bridge alongside the Lincoln Village Shopping Center at Lincoln Avenue and McCormick Boulevard will plug the missing section of the path network that starts at Lawrence Avenue and goes into Lincolnwood, Skokie and Evanston.
“This is the missing link,” Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) said at a groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning.
The bridge is being built in Minnesota in one piece. When the abutments are in ready, the bridge will delivered and lowered into place. The entire project is expected to be done this fall.
The city is calling the bridge the “Lincoln Village Pedestrian Bridge.” It will eliminate the need for users to exit the existing path and cross the North Shore Channel on the heavily-trafficked Lincoln Avenue bridge used by cars and trucks.
“Residents of the 50th Ward and the City of Chicago will finally have a beautiful and fully connected bike path,” Ald. Silverstein said in a statement. “Cyclists will soon be able to enjoy the trail all the way from Lawrence Avenue into the northern suburbs.”
Chicago Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said that when the bridge is in place, “we will close the final gap in the 6.7 mile North Shore Channel Trail.”
“This bridge will make a difference for communities throughout Chicago,” she said. “This has been a labor of love and it’s great to see it come to fruition.”
The 16-foot-wide bridge will connect to the new Bernard Stone Park and the trail on the west bank of the North Shore Channel, with an additional five miles of trails on the west bank at Lincoln Village and continue into Lincolnwood, Skokie and Evanston.
The project is being funded with a combination of federal and local dollars. The work also includes fencing and lighting up to the bridge, a cleanup of overgrown areas near the bridge and the planting of new trees and landscaping, the city said.
Residents have long called for a pedestrian/bike bridge over the channel. But the project has long been mired in controversy, debate and delays detailed in 2017 by Streetsblog Editor John Greenfield for the Chicago Reader.
Writer/photographer Patty Wetli assembled the following visual sketch of the path system for DNAinfo in 2016 (traveling north):
The North Shore Channel Trail starts near Lawrence and Francisco. The path continues along the Chicago River and North Shore Channel all the way to Evanston.
Underpasses at Foster (detour currently in place), Bryn Mawr, Peterson and Lincoln (pictured) provide cyclists and pedestrians an unimpeded “low-stress” route through River and Legion parks. This section of the trail runs along the east side of the river.
The east side path ends abruptly once it passes under Lincoln Avenue. It picks up on the west side of the river. But how?
Pedestrians and cyclists take a 180-degree turn from the paved path and proceed up this dirt strip to Lincoln Avenue.
Here’s where the dirt strip meets Lincoln Avenue, and the trail crosses the channel to the west-side leg. Most cyclists eschew the shared bike line on the heavily trafficked Lincoln in favor of the overpass’s sidewalk.
The narrow sidewalk isn’t wide enough for bikes traveling in both directions.
The west side of the trail starts here and runs parallel to the North Shore Channel all the way to Evanston, passing through the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park along the way.