Chicago’s 50-year-old overpass at Western Avenue between Addison and Diversey has reached the end of its useful life and is overdue for repair or rehabilitation. Chicago’s Department of Transportation began holding hearings in 2009 on the future of the structure, which spans a total of 1,000 feet from Roscoe to Nelson Streets.
Some local officials and residents have noted that the current structure, in addition to being unsafe, has been a strain on city finances due to the continual need for small patches and repairs. Alderman Eugene Schulter of Chicago’s 47th Ward said that since the overpass opened, “the city has spent money to fix falling concrete, the potholes, and there’s almost constant car accidents. A lot of drivers speed when they’re on it.” The original purpose of the structure in the 1960s was to increase access to Riverview Park, which closed decades ago.
Schulter and fellow Aldermen Manuel Flores and Scott Waguespack, of Chicago’s 1st and 32nd Wards, respectively, participated in an intensive public review process facilitated by CDOT. After reviewing two alternatives, CDOT officials concluded that repair would not be a viable option due to the unique design of the overpass.
CDOT is expected to proceed with removing the overpass in 2012 in lieu of an at-grade intersection, with the goal of minimizing traffic delays and disruptions. The recommended changes to the intersection after the overpass is removed include a widening of Western Avenue, including a third lane for traffic during peak hours. The new project will also result in a road median, wider sidewalks with newly-planted trees, longer crossing signals and countdown lights to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure that we take care of traffic flow first and traffic safety and pedestrian safety,” said Alderman Waguespack. Current plans would also prevent displacement of existing homes and businesses.