Lake Shore Dr. Bridges Near Montrose Are A Terrible Mix Of High Traffic & Structural Deficiency
By Stephen Gossett in News on Mar 7, 2017 8:44PM
Chicago bridges aren’t falling down exactly, but several of them are in decidedly poor shape. And some of those that are in noticeable decline still see quite a lot of traffic, from above and below.
In fact, nine of the ten most heavily traveled structurally deficient bridges in Illinois are right here in the Chicago area, with six of them right here in Cook County, according to a recent study. One of the examples included in the study, published by the D.C.-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association, that most grabs the eye—and sends the arms covering one's head—is the N Lake Shore Drive bridge, at W. Lawrence Ave. and, just a block south, the LSD bridge at W. Wilson Dr.
Both bridges on the busy, iconic drive average about 100,000 daily crossings. The cars that pass above only tell part of the story. Situated just west of the lakefront—and summer hotspots like the Montrose Dog Beach, the Wilson Skate Park and sites of countless impromptu warm-weather barbecues—the bridges above Lawrence and Wilson see heavy foot traffic underneath from pedestrians, including homeless people who regularly use the deficient structures for shelter. Both bridges were built in 1933 and have been classified as structurally deficient since 2014, according to ARTBA.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, a bridge is classified as structurally deficient if the deck, superstructure or other elements are rated as "poor." Such a determination could include "advanced section loss" or "deterioration," which certainly seems to fit the case for the Lake Shore bridges on the list, as it shows clearly visible signs of decline and deterioration on either side and underneath.
The good news: the Chicago Department of Transportation says repairs for the bridges near Montrose Beach are slated to begin this summer. The work will likely take six to eight months. "As both Wilson and Lawrence provide access to the lakefront, both of projects will be staged in order to minimize the impact on pedestrians and bicycle riders during the peak summer season," CDOT spokesperson Michael Claffey told Chicagoist via email.
But with the state's finances in seemingly eternal limbo, similar repair projects may not be a sure bet. As the Tribune notes, despite President Trump's rhetorical focus on infrastructure, there's been little practical focus—plus there's that whole defund sanctuary cities thing, too—and IDOT says it lacks the long-term dollars it requires to keep such problems from exacerbating. That's bad news for the state of Illinois at large, which according to ARTBA, has the sixth most structurally deficient bridges of any state in the country.