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The Mostly Dilapidated Western-Belmont Viaduct Closes Tonight, Forever

By Zoe Greenberg in News on Feb 29, 2016 6:42PM

Belmont-Western overpass, via curtis locke

If you want to say goodbye to the Western-Belmont viaduct, that crumbling overpass that was labeled “structurally deficient” in a 2012 inspection, you don’t have much time. At midnight the viaduct will close forever.

The overpass, which opened in 1961 to accommodate traffic from the now-defunct Riverview amusement park, will be demolished and ultimately replaced by a five-leg street-level intersection at Western, Belmont, and Clybourn avenues. There will be wider sidewalks and accessible ramps at corners. Western Avenue will have three lanes in each direction.

The Chicago Department of Transportation estimates the entire project will be completed in the summer of 2017, and will cost $25.7 million dollars, with the goal of improving traffic and pedestrian safety and movement. In the meantime, CDOT is advising drivers to take alternate routes.

Each day, 35,000 cars use the viaduct, according to DNAInfo. The structure is dotted with visible potholes and falling chunks of concrete.

The first phase of the project begins this Friday at 8 p.m., when Western Avenue will be closed to through traffic in both directions from Nelson to Roscoe, while the viaduct is demolished, according to a CDOT press release. After the weekend closure, there will be one traffic lane open on Western Avenue in each direction for five months.

In the second phase of the project, there will be two lanes of traffic in each direction on Western Avenue. During that time, CDOT will also fix the road on Western Avenue between Logan Boulevard and Waveland Avenue.

Transportation officials said they will take care to reduce dust and disturbances during this weekend’s demolition, and that the project will “re-establish the fabric of the neighborhood grid and will create new opportunities for economic development and job creation.” No homes or businesses will be displaced.

"I think it will be an improvement, but I think it's going to suck for the first few months as they tear it down right in front of my house," Kristin Thompson, who lives on Western near the viaduct, told the Tribune.

According to CDOT, workers will be at the site continuously through the weekend, and no additional full road closures are anticipated for the rest of the project.