The Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) contractor*, Walsh Construction (search for them on the City’s contracts website), is hard at work removing the existing bridge on Halsted Street between Goose Island and Division Street (about 1150 N Halsted).
The two-lane bridge with dangerous open metal grate deck will soon be replaced with one that has 4 shared lanes, 2 bike lanes and made with a concrete deck. CDOT has not released any information explaining the widening or how the street north or south of the bridge will be aligned. This is disconcerting as street width and street design are the major factors that determine traffic speed. While the road surface will be improved, especially for those bicycling, the added street width may influence an increase in automobile speeds negating any perceived improvement in safety.
As of Monday, January 24, 2011, parts of both spans of the moveable bridge have been removed and crews were actively removing additional parts of the deck and overhead cross pieces.
Using a torch to remove the cross pieces.
Removing the deck.
The official detour does not invite people bicycling to go any certain way. If people bicycling take the car route, they will be guided onto a narrowed lane over another part of the North Branch Canal on Chicago Avenue (lanes were realigned from two to three – two eastbound, one westbound).
Idea to improve the detour
As the detour exists now over the Chicago Avenue bridge (between Halsted and Kingsbury), there are three narrow shared lanes (two eastbound, one westbound) on an open metal grate bridge. When dry, the bridge is slippery. When wet, the likelihood of falling while bicycling over it increases. I propose that an official detour be created for people bicycling on this route to go on the sidewalk as near to the bridge span as possible. On the eastside of the bridge sidewalks are stairs – build a ramp over each staircase. Allow people to ride their bikes on the sidewalk but install signage to ask them to dismount and yield when people walking are present. For those biking north in the detour (onto Kingsbury), a bike box will be provided at northbound Kingsbury before it crosses Chicago Avenue (so people riding bikes can position themselves in front of the queuing cars). See the graphic below:
*Walsh has had at least $292,639,510.94 in contracts awarded in 2007-2010 and is one of the Illinois’s largest construction companies.