CHICAGO (WLS) --Lane closures are scheduled starting Tuesday for the demolition of the Western Avenue viaduct at the Western/Belmont/Clybourn intersection on the city's North Side.
The viaduct, which opened in 1961, will be permanently closed starting Tuesday night and replaced by a new five-leg, at-grade intersection at the intersection. The project is expected to be complete by summer 2017.
"This viaduct is past its useful life and it's time for it to come down," said Rebekah Scheinfeld, commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile, drivers are bracing for what could be a long and congested 18 months of construction along Western Avenue.
"Sounds like it is going to be pretty messy and inconvenient," said driver Kathy Erwin.
The project aims to bring back the area's neighborhood feeling, spark economic development and improve traffic safety. When completed, Western Avenue will have three lanes of traffic in each direction during rush hours, with the curbside lane available for parking in some areas of the corridor during non-rush hours.
"By removing the viaduct and building the intersection at grade, this project will re-establish the fabric of the neighborhood grid and create new opportunities for economic development and job creation in this crossroad on the northwest side," Scheinfeld said. "The project will improve traffic safety while maintaining traffic capacity and also enhancing quality of life for the surrounding community."
"This bridge is kind of a detriment, I feel, to our neighborhood," Ald. Deborah Mell (33rd Ward). "It is kind of a barrier to come west."
City officials said the accelerated closures through the weekend will require no additional full road closures are anticipated for the rest of the project.
The demolition of the viaduct will occur this weekend and close Western, as well as the intersection at Belmont and Clybourn. After the weekend closure, there will be one lane of traffic open on Western Avenue in each direction for the first five months, with two lanes of traffic in each direction expected, until the project is complete, city officials said.
For the viaduct demolition to be completed safely, Western Avenue will be closed to through traffic in both directions from Nelson to Roscoe beginning at 8 p.m. Friday. Northbound Western will reopen at 5 a.m. on Monday as will southbound Western south of Belmont. The intersection will also reopen to traffic at 5 a.m. Monday.
Demolition work will continue through Monday on southbound Western between Belmont and Roscoe. That stretch will re-open at 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Businesses in the area are bracing for the inconvenience.
"Having Western closed will be a little bit of a struggle but we will still have access to the building," said Mike Oestmann, of Cassidy Tire and Service.
For more information, visit the Chicago Department of Transportation website.