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Bridges Still a Barrier to South Side Lake Access

By JoshMogerman in News on Feb 19, 2012 9:00PM

Stairs to 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge [reallyboring]

There is a ton going on next to the Lake on the South Side. Shoreline stabilizations. New beaches. Prairie restoration. A swanky new marina. It is an impressive mix, bringing much needed amenities to communities like Oakwood, Bronzeville and North Kenwood. There’s just one problem. People in those neighborhoods are still largely separated from all those new outdoor goodies by limited options to traverse Lake Shore Drive and a mess of busy train tracks.

The Trib’s Blair Kamin took a close look at the long-simmering frustrations of many on the South Side over delays in pedestrian bridge upgrades and construction. Here in Chicagoist’s Bronzeville bureau, we have access to what might be the prettiest footbridge in the city on 47th Street, but we certainly see the problem for folks in nearby neighborhoods who are stuck traversing scary-looking, rusted out structures that are home to the biggest and most menacing spider webs we have noticed anywhere in the city. Don’t take our word for it; check out this gallery posted last month on Grid Chicago with some unflattering shots of the 35th and 27th Street bridges. And Kamin sounds downright repulsed by his trip across the 43rd Street bridge:

When I walked across the bridge at 43rd Street on Tuesday, I found rusting handrails, stair risers with holes in them and a buckled concrete floor deck on the bridge's east side. Forget wheelchair or easy bike access. On both the east and west sides of the bridge, you have to climb more than 30 stairs to reach the deck. And the deck's straightness does nothing to break up the trip across the span into enticing chunks.
There is hope for folks near 35th, where a long-scheduled replacement may finally begin construction and open a decade after its design won an international competition. But without nearby bridges, residents to the north and south will be left gazing longingly at the new parks they should be able to enjoy.