The Chainlink

A Subaru apparently hit a bicyclist Tuesday afternoon near the unfinished Navy Pier Flyover, smashing the car's windshield and reportedly sending the bicyclist to the hospital.

The driver and police declined to comment immediately following the apparent collision at noon on Lower Lake Shore Drive at Grand Avenue. But remnants of the crash, including a mangled bicycle and busted Subaru windshield, were on full display.

There's also a new Facebook page that is pushing to get the project completed ASAP with no further delays.

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Dropping this in here. Some good points made here.

A boondoggle is generally not an ideal approach for any type of project no matter what the final outcome turns out to be.
These points. Yes, I did read all of them. What the . . . (Please read note below)

Jorge, if you choose to disclose, or not, are you an engineer, or are you involved in any way with this project? Besides being involved in the cycling community, we all are interested in improving the efficiency of our cycling network in this city. I'm sure you are also passionate and dedicated to this endeavor. It's just that (IMO) in my opinion, and others, believe that it could have been implemented in a less costly and more efficient manner. Maybe not a total boondoggle, but perhaps to be considered as a partial one.
Your logic on Millennium Park turning out after being rescued from being a total boondoggle only proves it was a wastefully planned project.
Your words, "Things are not as simple as: less money, no mountains to climb. And literally 'Chicago does not deal in smart.'. . . Whatever is literal about that."
Why can't we here in Chicago strive to do things smart and efficient in any and all the public works that we formulate and design? I just guess that's asking TOO much. But I keep telling myself, this IS Chicago!

note: IMO, i think you should go easy on the 'masked vulgarities', (I.D.G.A.F., W.T.F., SH*T). It personally doesn't bother me, but I think your argumentative points may be taken more seriously otherwise. You might be flying under the admin. radar here.

Jorge, this IS the Chainlink! There are rules here, just like there should be in Chicago and everwhere else in a civil society!

Whoah. No fun to wake up to this. 

There are rules...

I understand this is HUGE to a lot of us. I hate riding through that mess and dealing with pedestrians walking the entire width, forcing me close to the speeding traffic. And I see both sides of this issue.  

That said, let's keep it respectful. No personal attacks and careful with the language. Thanks!

Absurd how long this flyover is taking. I pedal by every day for the last 2 years. It could've been opened 3 months ago. 

Your evaluation is based upon what authority -- pedaling by every day? Are you deeply versed in the scope and financing of this project?

No idea. Im no expert engineer. I'm sure they need to inspect and approve prior to opening. However, I see workers sporadically making, what I think, are finishing touches for the last 3 months. I was hit by a car last summer on that cross walk in front of navy pier. She ran that red light. Anyway, I was only expressing my feelings towards the urgency of this overpass. I'm sure others have been hurt in that area. As soon as that is opened, a lot of people won't have to deal with shitty drivers. Peace out. Ride safe.

I honestly haven't read a great explanation of why the timeline is what it is on the flyover, but from what I have seen, the time it's taking to construct it seems to be more funding related than actual complexity of construction related. 

I personally think it's fair to be a little upset how this is being handled when compared to highway/road construction projects.  I'm not going to say it never happens, but it seems rare to hear about a highway/road construction project grinding to a halt--or only progressing so far--because the funding simply ran out for that year.   In other words, we still see greater funding support/ease for road projects vs. cycling infrastructure, and the flyover is no exception even though the scale of the project is similar.   

And given the funding-related issues with the flyover, I do think it's also fair to question whether this project was worth the cost and time.  Could an equally safe alternative have been designed for a much lower cost and implemented at a much quicker pace?  Steven Vance suggested a few viable (and much less costly) alternatives on streetsblog and his blog, so I think it's hard to argue the answer is clearly "no" to that question.    

Having read the discussion of the flyover and seeing the increased passion over a project we would all probably agree that we would like to see done but might disagree on method and timetable, I asked a friend who had some knowledge for some perspective. I got the following reply:

The original design for the river crossing was a cantilevered bike attachment to east side of the bridge. But it got complicated because the bridge is historic and the SHPO wanted something different. Eventually, the designers came up with the idea of cutting through the bridge house, which was approved.

Needless to say, this was an extremely complex undertaking that involved numerous public meetings, as well as regulatory input from the Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the USEPA, IDOT, Chicago Park District, Illinois and the client, Chicago DOT. Some examples of the hurdles the design team faced:


  • The north end of the project area is Streeterville, which had an industrial history prior to the current upscale development. There is a 5-block square area that is underlain with thorium wastes from a lighting company that operated for many years. . Their waste control operations involved burying the radioactive waste materials 4-6 feet below grade, something that every construction or utility maintenance project must confront. Any thorium-contaminated soil must be hauled to Utah, just a little bit costly. That requires USEPA input for every proposed action in the area, and that oversight/reporting process continues through today. The environmental work required a great deal of historical research and document prep, agency interaction, soil testing and reporting, all requiring interaction with the structural and geotechnical design team members.
  • The lakefront area now called DuSable Park (just north of the Chicago River Bridge) also had an industrial history and has been going through remediation work for the past year. All of this soil cleanup work must be done in order to place the bridge piers which have to reach the bedrock at approx. 80 ft. below grade. To reduce the amount of soil excavation, the engineers designed the piers in the shape of a golf tee, able to be pushed deep into the sandy soils along the lakefront to bedrock.
  • The older seawalls of the park along the Ogden Slip and the Chicago River were pretty old and needed evaluation and, possibly, reinforcement or replacement. That required the park District, Corps of Engineers  and Coast Guard input.
  • The funding is provided partly by the federal government, the money administered by IDOT and CDOT. There are extensive rules of research and reporting required for any transportation project, especially in an area such as the lakefront that is so densely developed. The associated subsurface infrastructure is very complicated and required much engineering and planning. All of that work takes years, and the money for each phase of the project is budgeted on an annual basis. Needless to say, Illinois’ financial status is so poor that there is much competition for the money for other, more critical infrastructure needs. For example, so many bridges are out date that Illinois simply cannot afford to repair/replace, in addition to other road and rail concerns.


Overall, I wish the project could have progressed faster, because it does have great long-term benefits for everyone, not just bicyclists. When complete, it will be a great asset that fits within Burnham’s  concept of the lakefront as the one defining feature of Chicago. Here’s the website with the latest updates on the project status  


Hope this helps.

Thanks to John Greenfield for doing some research and putting it all in perspective in the Chicago Reader. And super thanks to fellow Chainlink members that chimed in and are now Internet famous. :-)

A few excerpts:

Still, the story inspired a thread on the Chainlink, a social networking site for local cyclists, in which members wondered aloud why, three years after the groundbreaking, the flyover still isn't finished.

Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke has also expressed concerns about the construction time line, calling the overpass "a worthwhile investment given that it's such a busy bike/ped corridor," but adding that he's "disappointed it's taking so long."

A commenter on the Chainlink thread named Jorge defended CDOT's explanation of the project's cost leading to its seemingly slow completion.

"Why is it taking so long? Funding is spread out over years. It is that simple."

He scoffed at the idea that the grassroots Complete the Navy Pier Flyover. And Soon campaign could accelerate the project. "There is no possible way for that to happen," he wrote. "Might as well pray for it to happen sooner. Same effect, nothing."

Jorge also pushed back at the notion that the $60 million project is a boondoggle, noting that it will prevent crashes and injuries, and improve access to Navy Pier. "When are cyclists ever afforded luxuries in our car culture?" he wrote.

Jorge's got a point. We often take massive expenditures to facilitate driving for granted. Last week, for example, the Illinois Tollway board voted unanimously for a $4 billion expansion of the Tri-State Tollway. That's the equivalent of 67 Navy Pier Flyovers. It's about time that bike riders and pedestrians got some Cadillac-quality infrastructure for a change. While it would have been nice to see the flyover project expedited, in about a year and a half trail users' patience will be rewarded with a first-class facility.

Full Article on Chicago Reader:

If you are a regular rider on the bike path and are concerned about the progress of the Flyover I'd like to talk to you.  I'm doing a story for WTTW on Wednesday, Oct 25th  Please let me know ASAP by responding to this message if you would like to participate.  Elizabeth Brackett

As to Anne's  comment, this  is my reaction  with every crash.  I am loathe to  seek an  eye for  an eye and  am much  less concerned with  putting  a driver in jail and much more concerned with the cyclist being  able to pay his/her medical  bills and getting something out of their  misery. 

As to  the flyover, I  know there were serious environmental obstacles to overcome but  am not close  to this and do  not know exactly what was in play and how it caused delay.  Once it finally gets done  and  becomes part of our  culture there will only be the  question  of the altitude  gain as novice riders  grimace over the summit before they look down and see there were not  a  lot of alternatives.  Over  time we will forget all the years we shared the  sidewalk under the drive with  pedestrians  riding perhaps six or  seven mph and will be dumbfounded when told stories of  how dangerous that  section had  been. We will  forget the the time and the cost, accepting the flyover as that  climb before or  after you  get to  Monroe Harbor.



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