Mich. Ave. Bridge makeover begins

January 12, 2009 3:38:13 PM PST
A renovation project is under way for a Chicago landmark. The sidewalks and railings on the Michigan Avenue Bridge are being replaced.The project will make it easier for pedestrians to walk across the Chicago River.

The renovations will accomplish two things. One, it will restore one of Chicago's landmarks to its former luster. The other, it will also make the crossing -- one that's been known as one of the icier pedestrian crossings -- safer.

Work is under way on the west side of the bridge. It will be completed in four phases in the next six months at the cost of $3.45 million. The project will replace the steel-plated sidewalk with non-slip fiberglass material and a new architectural railing reminiscent of the 1920's design of Edward Bennett. It will have new lighting, guardrails as well as flagpoles.

Once the cosmetics are complete, work to properly balance the bridge will begin.

"This structure is basically a gigantic teeter-totter with a very short side and very long side," said Thomas Powers, First Dept. Commissioner, CDOT. "So everything you do with the long side, which would be the part over the river, significantly affects the balance of the bridge.

"So we have to be cognizant about the weight that you take off versus the weight you put on. And our ability to change a steel surface for a lighter fiberglass surface allows us to go with a heavier railing, a more historic railing."

City officials say that on an average work day some 30,000 people use the Michigan Avenue Bridge to cross from one side of the river to the other.

This work should be completed by June.