City To Tear Down Western-Belmont Overpass Next Year
By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 10, 2014 9:40PM
The crumbling undercarriage of the Western Avenue viaduct. Photo Credit: Gabriel X Michael
The Western-Belmont overpass, an eyesore that long outlived its usefulness, will be completely demolished next year and replaced by a grade-level intersection.
That’s according to a plan released by the Chicago Department of Transportation Monday night, part of a larger overall project to improve the Western Avenue corridor from Jones Street, south of Diversey, to Waveland Avenue. The plan calls for widening sidewalks to 13 feet, planting trees, adding benches and bike racks and installing pedestrian countdown signals at intersections.
The teardown of the Western-Belmont overpass is the centerpiece of the project. It originally opened in 1962 as a way to help alleviate traffic to Riverview amusement park. Riverview would close a couple years later and the overpass wound up serving as a symbol of antiquated urban planning. As historian John R. Schmidt wrote last year:
In 1962 few people had complained about aesthetics. Once the overpass was no longer needed, critics discovered it was ugly. It blighted the neighborhood. Besides, the traffic lanes on the viaduct itself were too narrow.
Demolition costs were high. So for decades, there’s been a death-watch at Western-Belmont—a death watch on a viaduct. How long before the thing would fall apart, and the city would be forced to tear it down? Now it looks like this is finally going to happen.
Tearing down the overpass will allow for three lanes of traffic on Western during morning and evening rush hour commutes, but some residents were skeptical demolishing the structure would help ease the traffic flow. The overall construction project is expected to take up to two years to complete, with the overpass slated for demolition next spring and expected to last 4-6 months. Traffic on Western will be reduced to one lane on Western in each direction during that span.