From today's Trib. . . this has always been a pet-peeve of mine as it has such a negative impact on all the pedestrian tourist traffic. . .
Michigan Avenue bridge set to reclaim some of its ancient luster
Handrails, sidewalks will be restored over next six months, officials say
By James Janega
December 27, 2008
Beginning in January, the city will restore decorative handrails on the Michigan Avenue bridge to a design reminiscent of their original 1920s Beaux Arts pattern while also replacing sidewalks on the bridge with non-skid fiberglass decking.
The project will restore a stroke of beauty to one of the city's most iconic tourist and pedestrian landmarks and address one of Chicago's iciest river crossings. But it also promises to snarl pedestrian traffic for up to six months as first one side of the bridge and then the other is closed in the $3.5 million face-lift.
"This is something that has been planned for at least a couple of years," said Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Steele. Because pedestrian counts are lower now, he added, "winter is a better time to handle this type of construction."
The bridge was designed by Chicago architect Edward Bennett. One of the first priorities of the plan was the double-deck bridge finished in 1920 to link the north side of Michigan Avenue with the southern end and downtown. The interlaced diamond pattern of the original railings will be recreated (though with smaller gaps in the lattice, bringing them up to modern code) as new deck plates are installed to reduce the ice-rink quality the bridge has had in recent years.
If Venice has its Bridge of Sighs, Chicago has on Michigan Avenue its Bridge of Muttered Curses. Four years ago, metal deck plates were covered with a polyurethane non-skid surface, Steele said. "Because of the high traffic on that bridge, it has deteriorated."
Though conceptually simple, renovating one of the city's landmark bascule-style bridges involves painstaking attention to detail. To open and close properly, the weight of each bridge leaf must be balanced with a counterweight hidden below the streets on either side of the river.