Western Avenue bridge project begins




by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI

The 55-year-old Western Avenue viaduct at Western, Belmont and Clybourn avenues was demolished over the weekend to make way for a new five-way at-grade-level intersection to be completed by next year, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

"By removing the viaduct and building the intersection at grade, this project will re-establish the fabric of the neighborhood grid and create new opportunities for economic development and job creation in this crossroad on the Northwest Side," department commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said in a statement. "The project will boost the commercial viability of the area, improve traffic safety and enhance quality of life for the surrounding community."

The demolition required the closing of Western to traffic as well as the intersection at Belmont and Clybourn. One lane of traffic will be open on Western Avenue in each direction for the first 5 months of the project, with two lanes of traffic in each direction expected after that.

Upon completion of the $25.7 million project in the summer of 2017, Western will have three lanes of traffic in each direction during rush hour, with the curbside lane available for parking in some areas of the corridor during non-rush hours. The project also will feature roadway improvements along a 1.27-mile stretch of Western from Logan Boulevard to Waveland Avenue.

The department is advising motorists to take alternate routes. The posted alternate route will be Western to Diversey Avenue to Ashland Avenue to Irving Park Road, back to Western in both directions for smaller vehicles excluding large trucks.

Motorists will be able to avoid the construction zone by exiting Western south of Diversey or north of Irving Park and using alternate north/south routes, according to the department. Bus and large truck traffic will be maintained on Western during the project.

Western has been reduced to one lane in each direction from George Street to Cornelia Avenue for viaduct demolition and removal, installation of temporary pavement and river bridge repairs. Access will be maintained to all businesses in the construction zone, according to the department.

During the first phase of construction, no left turns will be allowed from Western to cross streets between George Street and Roscoe Street.

During the second and third stages of the project, which will last 8 months, there will be two lanes of traffic in each direction on Western. Belmont will be reduced to one lane in each direction at the Western intersection. Additional work will include roadway installation and rehab and sidewalk and curb work.

The fourth and fifth stage will take about 4 months and will feature two lanes of traffic in each direction on Western and Belmont, median work and repaving.

The transportation department said that because the viaduct has reached the end of its useful life, the city worked with residents, businesses and elected representatives to determine how to replace or reconfigure the intersection at Western, Belmont and Clybourn.

The department evaluated two alternatives during the planning process, the replacement of the viaduct structure or the removal of the viaduct and replacing it with an at-grade intersection and corridor improvements. The second alternative was chosen.

Travel times are expected to be comparable after completion of the project, and traffic movement will improve on Western and adjoining streets, according to the department. Traffic signals will be interconnected and will have the capacity to provide transit signal priority for CTA buses.

Pedestrian safety improvements include refuge islands, bump-outs, high-visibility crosswalks, wider sidewalks and the addition of pedestrian countdown signals at all signalized intersections. ADA ramps are being installed at all the corners along the project corridor.

The project includes repairs to the bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River and improvements along Western and at the intersections of Western with Schubert, Diversey/Elston, Belmont, Roscoe and Addison Street. In addition, the project will provide new lighting and install landscaped medians along much of the corridor.

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