A Closer Look at Bronzeville’s New Pedestrian Connection

Editor’s Note: Earlier this month we told you that CDOT opened a new suspension bridge linking Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood with the Lake Michigan shore. For a closer look a the project, we turn to Chicago Architecture’s resident bridge expert, Patrick McBriarty. You’ve probably seen him on TV or heard him on the radio lately, as there are few people who know more about the city’s bridges.

35th Street Pedestrian Bridge (Courtesy of Patrick McBriarty)

35th Street Pedestrian Bridge (Courtesy of Patrick McBriarty)3

The long planned and talked about project to replace the 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge, which began in July 2014, was completed earlier this month. The new bridge is attractive and striking, especially considering it replaced a riveted Pratt truss, catwalk, pedestrian bridge crossing multiple rail lines and Lake Shore Drive. The new 620-foot-long, A-frame, cable-stayed, suspension bridge is fully ADA compliant to more equally connect all Chicagoans with Lake Michigan and the lakefront park and recreation areas.

The Chicago Department of Transportation oversaw the planning and construction of this $23 million bridge funded by $18 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $5 million from the State of Illinois. The bridge was constructed by McHugh Construction and Arazia Corporation and features LED lighting in the handrails and illumination of the suspension cables, and center pylon.

Designed by architect John Hillman and the engineering firm Teng and Associates, the gentle S-curved bridge offers a wide bicycle and pedestrian roadway to and from the lakefront with pleasing views along the way.

35th Street Bridge (Courtesy of Patrick McBriarty)

35th Street Bridge (Courtesy of Patrick McBriarty)

Seven multi-strand steel cables bundled into a single continuous steel rope draped over the steel A-frame at its midpoint and anchored at each end provide the basic structure. Regular intervals of cable stays suspended from the steel cable support the bridge deck.

This bridge is the only single cable-stayed suspension bridge in Chicago. Although, it should be noted the city has one other suspension bridge — at North Avenue. It was built in 2004 and employs a traditional twin cable-stay design to cross the North Branch of the Chicago River.

The new 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge helps to maintain Chicago’s connection to the lakefront, since from Hollywood Boulevard to Hyde Park, residents and visitors are separated from Lake Michigan by Lake Shore Drive.

For downtowners and north siders it is no great hardship as multiple underpasses, crosswalks, and the Lincoln Park Through Arch pedestrian bridge (refurbished in the spring of 2016) connect folks to the lakefront parks at regular intervals of four blocks or less.

Lincoln Park Pedestrian Bridge (Courtesy of Patrick McBriarty)

Lincoln Park Pedestrian Bridge (Courtesy of Patrick McBriarty)

However, Near South Side residents must contend with the added obstacles and obstructed views caused by the South Shore Line, the Canadian National Railway lines, the McCormick Place Convention Center, the I-55 junction with L.S.D., and the truck marshaling yards that extend from I-55 to 31st Street.

Below 31st Street the Bronzeville neighborhood and its communities of Douglas, Groveland Park, and Aldine Square lack significant parkland, given these barriers and I-90/94 to the west. Therefore the 35th Street Bridge provides a key point of lakefront access between 31st and 39th Streets. Further south to Hyde Park and beyond pedestrian bridges and underpasses provide access to lakefront parks and Lake Michigan at regular intervals of not more than four blocks, or approximately every half-mile.

The grand opening of the 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge was attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, and Alderman Will Burns and is part of the Mayor’s neighborhood development strategy, Chicago Neighborhoods Now, which was launched in 2013. It is designed to create community involvement through Action Plans that are published and updated annually to outline priority projects for each of the sixteen designated planning areas across the City of Chicago.

Location: 35th Street at Lake Shore Drive, Bronzeville

Author: Patrick McBriarty

Patrick McBriarty, a former business person and consultant, over a decade ago discovered a new focus and fascination for Chicago bridges. His first book Chicago River Bridges won the 2013 Henry N. Barkhausen Award for original Great Lakes Maritime History and presents the untold history and development of Chicago’s iconic bridges. Published by the University of Illinois Press in October 2013. Concurrently in 2011-12 with filmmaker Stephen Hatch, they co-produced the documentary Chicago Drawbridges, which was first broadcast on Chicago public television in April 2013. Patrick is currently working on a forthcoming series of children’s books sharing his excitement and appreciation for bridges with a smaller audience. The first children’s book Bridges of All Kinds is available now and the second picture book Drawbridges Open and Close illustrated by Johanna Kim is currently under review with several publishers. Patrick holds a bachelors in business administration and a masters in economics from Miami University.

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