VP Harris Makes Personal Visit to Chicago; Delivers $144 Million IIJA Grant to Rehab Calumet River Bridges
Chicago was one of the first recipients of IIJA’s Large Bridge Grants, garnering $144 million to rehabilitate four bridges over the Calumet River on the Southside of Chicago: The 92nd Street-Ewing Avenue Bridge, the 95th Street Bridge, the 100th Street Bridge and the 106th Street Bridge. Each bridge lifts an average of 5,000 times per year, providing access for marine traffic and the surrounding communities.
The Calumet River connects Lake Michigan with the Lake Calumet Port District which is further connected to the Illinois River providing access to the Gulf of Mexico. The bridges are lifted to allow freight ships access to the Illinois International Port District and the numerous industrial facilities along the river.
Vice President Harris pointed out that millions of Americans who have never heard of the 95th Street Bridge and will never cross it rely on products like meat and eggs that cargo ships bring under it, or drive a Ford car whose parts pass through here and was built by United Auto Workers Local 551. “These products are made in America,” said Harris. “This bridge is how they are delivered to America.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot commented that the bridges also link the East Side neighborhood to points north and west, carrying a combined daily average of more than 40,000 vehicles.
According to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the 92nd, 95th and 106th Street bridges are in poor condition, and the 100th Street bridge is in serious condition. Federal guidelines define “Poor Condition” to mean a bridge is in an “advanced” state of deterioration and “Serious Condition” to mean parts of the bridge are at risk of failure.
“The engineers and experts have taken a look at these [bridges] and say we’re living on borrowed time,” said Sen. Dick Durbin during a news conference held for Harris’ visit. “These bridges and 2,000 more like them across the state of Illinois need help and need it now.”
The bridge rehabilitation work will include replacing the original steel with stronger steel, replacing mechanical and electric systems that raise and lower the bridges, and incorporate aspects of the original bridges.
The completed project will eliminate a load restriction and truck detours and will also add dedicated bike lanes and improved sidewalks to support community connections.
Rehabilitating these bridges ensures that communities on either side of the river remain connected and the bridges continue to function to allow barge and ship traffic to traverse to the Illinois International Port and beyond. CDOT officials say the work is critical and will enable the bridges to survive another 50 years.
Work is expected to begin in early 2024 on the 92nd Street bridge and finish in early 2027 with the completion of the 106th Street bridge.