Grid Shots: The variety of pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Drive

A reader on our Facebook page suggested we feature the 35th Street pedestrian bridge, over the Illinois Central railroad tracks and connected to a second bridge over Lake Shore Drive, in this week’s Grid Shots*. Here’re several other interesting and, in some cases, dilapidated pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Drive. All photos are by Eric Rogers, who contributes many of his great photos to our Flickr group.

3500 S Lake Shore Drive

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The 35th Street pedestrian bridge is particularly uninviting; it links the neighborhood at 35th and Cottage Grove to the Lakefront Trail. It should have been replaced by now.

On both the east and west sides it has stairs only and is difficult to see from the Lakefront Trail or the neighborhood. Replacing it has been on the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) radar since at least 2003 when CDOT “in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Foundation initiated the ‘Bridging the Drive Competition’ to solicit concepts for replacement structures at this location as well as three other locations along Lakeshore Drive [sic]. A total of 23 firms from all over the world provided 67 proposals for the various bridge crossings. On January 13, 2005, the design submitted by Teng & Associates, Inc. was selected as the winning entry for the 35th Street location.” From the American Society of Civil Engineers May/June 2010 newsletter (which includes models and drawings of the winning bridge design).

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The poor condition steps on the east side of the bridge. 

In 2004 then-CDOT commissioner Miguel D’Escoto said they had obtained partial funding; it may have had Phase 1 engineering completed by this time. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) has it listed as a possible project for CMAQ funding in 20072008 and 2010. (I didn’t anticipate researching far into the bridge’s history when I started this article until I noticed it had a history worth digging into. I will have to ask CDOT and CMAP why a new bridge hasn’t been built.)

4700 S Lake Shore Drive

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I think this is the best one as it is one of the few with a gradual ramp up to the bridge from street level without hairpin turns. That makes it easy to ride your bicycle up and down. It opened in November 2005. This bridge’s design was also part of the competition as the 35th Street bridge.

1600 N Lake Shore Drive

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Probably the busiest pedestrian bridge, and inadequate for the kind and frequency of users. There are so many people walking, scooting, and cycling across, or dragging kids and coolers, up and down the narrow, tight curved ramps. Please walk your bike across!

2700 S Lake Shore Drive

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A cagey bridge. This bridge has also been on the planning desks of CDOT and CMAP for the same time as the 35th Street bridge.

*We skipped the past two Grid Shots. You know, the holidays.

11 thoughts on “Grid Shots: The variety of pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Drive”

  1. 47th St. is my hands-down favorite.   The eastern approach is a breeze.  The climb from the western approach is quite reasonable, and the curves are easy to take.  The view is great, too.

    Calling the 35th St. bridge “uninviting” is such a gross understatement that it makes me laugh.

    1. “Calling the 35th St. bridge “uninviting” is such a gross understatement that it makes me laugh.”

      As grungy as some of the South LSD bridges are, I would much rather walk above traffic in the open air on a grungy bridge then be forced into a damp, dark tunnel to reach the Lakefront as is required on North LSD. Every pedestrian crossing of LSD should be as a aerial bridge… their visual and social values blow away the underpasses, improving the LSD experience for both park users AND drivers.

    2. Yeah, yeah. I’ve been on that bridge about twice. On the west side (neighborhood side) you can’t see it and I happened upon it by accident. 

      On the east side, it’s not exactly jumping out at you like the intersection with 31st Street, or the 47th Street bridge. I’m now very concerned about why it’s been delayed or ignored for 8 years.

  2. There are good and bad pedestrian underpasses.  The good ones are just as spacious as the ones designed for cars.  The pair of underpasses at Roosevelt are fantastic, and so is the pair at 57th.  Others, like the one at Oak Street Beach or Ohio Street, are miserable.

    Steve, you probably know more than I do, but it seems like the only source of funding for these expensive bike/ped projects is CMAQ.  These funds have always been in high demand but now Rahm has his own priorities for that money and they don’t include South Side pedestrian bridges.

    1. Rahm’s priorities for CMAQ funding are just part of the driving force for Chicago receiving them. The applications the City of Chicago makes for these funds is weighed against the applications made by other municipalities (applicants) and project criteria that CMAP is in charge of. I’m interested in getting to the bottom of this. 

  3. On the flip side, the underpass just north of Addison is a nightmare.  Pavement is seriously cratered.  Years ago there used to be convex mirrors where the ramps and stairs met the tunnel.  Not now, so you can’t see what’s around the corner. There are times when it’s the most direct path to where I’m going, but I hate that one.

    I like the bridges a lot better due to better sightlines.

  4. Glad my shots were useful! I actually like the 27th Street bridge for some reason. It probably won’t age well, though, and obviously the approach is weird now with Michael Reese gone.

  5. The bridges at 35th and 27th have the problem of having to cross the Illinois Central tracks, which I think plays a part in rebuilding funding.

    1. Why do you think that plays a part in the funding? I doubt the RR has anything to do with the bridge. They will be notified that one is being built. And there’s already one there so their objections will be non-existent or limited. I doubt they will contribute any funds. 

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