The Lake Street bridge is lifted as sailboats make a trip down the Chicago River to their winter storage on Oct. 29, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

DOWNTOWN — The historical Lake Street Bridge will be getting a much-needed overhaul next year.

Build in 1916, the bridge is one of three double-decker bascule bridges in the Loop, serving cars, pedestrians and elevated trains. The bridge has undergone several repairs in the last five years, but now it’s time for a full rehab, officials said.

“The bridge is over 100 years old, so it needs some loving,” said Luis Benitez, chief bridge engineer for the city.

The project will include a complete replacement of the bridge over the Chicago River and rehabilitation of its mechanical/electrical systems, substructure and the bridge houses, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

CDOT is currently responsible for more than 300 bridge and viaduct structures, including 37 operable movable bridges along the Chicago and Calumet Rivers. All of these bridges are maintained by the department through its Capital Bridge and Bridge Maintenance Programs.

A CTA Pink Line train passes over the Lake Street Bridge, as seen from the Chicago River on a Wendella Chicago Architecture Tour on Oct. 20, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Bidding for contractors will begin in the next few months, Benitez said. Once a contractor is selected, a defined timeline will be developed, officials said.

Officials estimate the work will begin in 2024 and take about two years, which will include an 18-month closure along Lake Street from Canal Street to Wacker Drive. Pedestrians will be rerouted to cross the river along Randolph Street during that time. Cars will be rerouted to cross the river going east along Washington Street and west along Madison Street.

About six months into the road closure, the CTA line above the bridge will be shut down for two 12-day increments to allow for work on the eastbound and westbound rails. This will impact travel on the Green and Pink Line trains.

A shuttle will be provided during this time to take people from the Clinton Station to the Clark/Lake Station. Additionally, the CTA 125 bus route will detour east on Washington Street and north on Wacker Drive, while the stop at Canal and Randolph will be closed during the 18-month road closure.

The last comparable bridge project of this size was the Wells Street Bridge reconstruction project, which was completed in 2013.

“The biggest parts are over the water and it’s got the rail above, and that adds a lot of complexity. And we still have to maintain access to the waterway. Any boat that comes down needs to be able to get through,” said Moira Kent, project manager with CDOT.

The Lake Street Bridge project has been about two and a half years in the making, requiring the coordination between several city, state and federal agencies to determine what needed a complete replacement and what could be rehabilitated.

“It’s been taken care of carefully for 107 years … now it’s at the time when its increased life span is a major rehab. One of the neat things will be the historic aspect and being able to restore it,” said Mike Eichten, vice president of AECOM, the consulting firm on the project.

When finished, Eichten said the bridge will include features that existed in the 1960s, such as designs atop the bridge houses, that have since disappeared.


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