Pier pressure: is there an alternative to the $45 million Navy Pier Flyover?


Congestion on the Lakefront Trail at the Lake Shore Drive south bridge house leads to frustrating experiences, especially for those on wheels. 

The section of the Lakefront Trail between Randolph Street and Ohio Street Beach cannot comfortably handle the traffic present in the many congested areas around the Lake Shore Drive bridge, Navy Pier, and Jane Addams Memorial Park. The narrow width, awkward curves, and blind spots make for highly dissatisfied trail users, that includes the gamut of Chicagoans and visitors, using Segways, four-wheel pedal cars, skates, strollers, bicycles, wheelchairs, or their own feet. There’s not enough room for the number of people who pass through here. This section of the trail is used by individuals on work and social trips, as well as groups meandering from park to park along Lake Michigan. The City plans to build an elevated structure, called the Navy Pier Flyover, to bypass the congestion, but at an extreme cost. We propose a different project to meet the same goals of comfortable passage on the path with a much smaller price tag.

The main problem areas are at the north and south ends of the Lake Shore Drive bridge, on the sidewalk between the bridge and Grand Avenue, at the blind spot where the trail meets Grand at the corner of Lakepoint Tower’s parking garage, and in the congested area inside Jane Addams Memorial Park and Ohio Street Beach. The Navy Pier Flyover is a planned structure on the Lakefront Trail that will “fly over” these trouble spots. The Lakefront Trail path as it currently exists will remain open for those who don’t want to use the flyover. Additionally, an “off ramp” will be built from the overpass to Navy Pier alongside the Ogden Slip – this part is superfluous to addressing path congestion, but may be useful for some path users. The project does not sufficiently address congestion at Ohio Street Beach.

The Navy Pier Flyover is going to cost a jaw-dropping $45 million. To put this in perspective, in 2008 the Portland, Oregon, Bureau of Transportation estimated the entire replacement cost of its then 300-mile bike network at about $60 million. We propose an alternative solution to combat the same problems at a much lower cost, and with a far quicker construction time.

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