CDOT giving itself five opportunities to make bridges bicycle friendly


CDOT will be undertaking rehabilitation work on five bridges and should take the opportunity to advance bridge bike friendliness, like it did recently on Randolph Street. Photo by Christopher Gagnon.

A Grid Chicago reader pointed me to a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) for a project that will rehabilitate many bridges and viaducts, mostly in and around the central business district. I discussed several of the bridges listed in the RFP in an article about open grate metal bridges and the hazards they present to people bicycling. A study CDOT commissioned and “published” in 2004 said,

These metal grate bridges…can be difficult and intimidating for a bicyclist to cross. Depending on the type and direction of the grating, grooves can cause a “channeling effect” or “sliding” for bike tires, and narrow tires can be lodged in gaps between the bridge grates. In addition, the metal can become increasingly slippery when wet, making these bridges even more difficult for bicyclists to safely cross in rain or snow.

While CDOT will not repair this problem on safety concerns alone, it should address it during routine bridge renovation.

The RFP, specification 94825, calls for qualified engineering firms to present their Phase I and II proposals, by this past Monday, August 22, 2011, on the following bridges. Bridge condition is reported in the RFP. Bike ratings are from the 2004 study.

  • LaSalle Street – poor condition – bike rating of poor
  • Van Buren Street – serious condition – bike rating of fair
  • Grand Avenue – poor condition – bike rating of good
  • Cortland Street – inoperable, poor condition – already has bike friendly deck
  • Webster Street – inoperable, poor condition – bike rating of poor
  • Grid Chicago posits that all bridges with open grate decks have a bike rating of poor.

For each of these bridges, the scope of work “may include” rehabilitation of the movable and fixed deck, superstructure, and substructure. The RFP also includes a scope on improving the Canal Street viaduct from Madison Street to Taylor Street. While standing on Canal Street, it may not seem like a viaduct, but you are several stories above the earth, supported by columns and girders. This project should also be made bike friendly by installing buffered or protected bike lanes and removing the metal grates from the middle of the bike lane. There are three additional projects in the RFP which are bridges and viaducts not known to have open grates. Firms may submit proposals for one or more of the nine projects–proposals will be evaluated on a project-by-project basis.

The city’s policies of Complete Streets (PDF) and “make bridges bike friendly when rehabilitating” should dictate that all of these become bike friendly in one way or another. Harrison and Randolph Street bridges were made bike friendly with a concrete infill partial decking when they were rehabilitated in 2009 and 2011 respectively. While the RFP’s scope does not call for bike treatments to be added to the movable or fixed decks, CDOT must mandate that they be included in the design after a firm is selected.

The mayor and transportation commissioner’s commitment to make Chicago the most bicycle friendly city in the United States will be judged positively when they ensure that these bridges cease causing distress and danger to people cycling across them.


The Kinzie Street bridge was treated when a protected bike lane rolled through. 

More information

Read further for more information about Phase I and II reports, which are standard provisions for any kind of construction project, including simple affairs like installing bicycle parking. Many people may understand Phase I as a feasibility study; not every project may advance to having a Phase II report.

Firms who bid on this RFP are not actually submitting Phase I and II reports, but instead describing what makes them qualified, how they will go about conducting the work necessary to write the reports, who will be working on them, and a proposed schedule of work. It also includes proof of insurance, in the type and amounts the RFP specifies. Only after selection will the firm(s) prepare the reports.

What is Phase I?

From the RFP: “Phase I preliminary engineering services includes preparation and approval of all preliminary engineering documents required by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) including but not limited to a Project Development Report (PDR) and  Type, Size, and Location Plans (TS&L).” See examples of TS&L plans.

From IDOT’s Bureau of Design and Environment Manual, Chapter 11: “Phase I work can vary from a very minor type study to an in-depth investigation of corridors, alternative alignments and cross sections, different highway types, and other design features with consideration of social, economic, environmental, and engineering factors. In addition, safety, serviceability, and economy must be considered during project development. The Phase I study should clearly describe the need for the improvement and how to implement the improvement in a logical and organized manner. [my emphasis]

To effectively analyze a proposed improvement, coordinate and develop Phase I studies concurrently with public involvement activities and any required environmental analyses. The Phase I study will culminate in the completion of a Phase I report that documents the findings of the study.”

What is Phase II?

From the RFP: “The Phase II design engineering will consist of the preparation of the construction contract document including but not limited to the final plans, specifications and estimates. Also included in Phase II services is review of construction shop drawings and resolution of design issues.”

Essentially, Phase II is the plan on how to construct the project. This report includes detailed design drawings, specifying the location and type of each nut and bolt.

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