Both the Hyde Park Boulevard and 53rd Street entrance and exit ramps onto South Lake Shore Drive will be open by the end of the year, said Brian Steele, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation. The Hyde Park Boulevard ramp is currently closed as part of the complete reconstruction of South Lake Shore Drive.
"There's been staged closures of the ramp," Steele said. "When one is closed, the other is open. The Hyde Park Boulevard ramp closed when the newly reconstructed 53rd Street ramp was finished."
The Hyde Park Boulevard ramp was closed mid-September and will stay closed through November until the repairs are complete.
The three-year project involves the reconstruction of South Lake Shore Drive in the six miles from 23rd Street to 67th Street. This is the first time in its long history that the street has been completely renovated.
"Some of South Lake Shore Drive dates back 80 or 90 years, but some parts are only 40 or 50 years old," Steele said. "There have been several temporary repairs-resurfacing, patching-basically just maintenance and upkeep through the years, but the sub-base had deteriorated so much that it needed reconstruction."
The $162 million-project is being funded primarily by Illinois First, Governor George Ryan's 1999 $12 billion initiative. The Fund for Infrastructure, Roads, Schools, and Transit is designed to rebuild the state's infrastructure needs, like water and sewer lines, school classrooms, bridges, and fire equipment.
Work began on South Lake Shore Drive in September 2001 and will be completed by the end of 2003. According to Steele, everything has proceeded on schedule and within budget.
A new sewer system is being installed along the drive, as well as 14 acres of new green space and new bike paths. Preliminary construction has also begun on five new underpasses in Jackson Park from 57th Street to 66th Street.
"It's a complete reconstruction of the roadway, but in addition there are a host of pedestrian and recreational amenities," Steele said.
The 98-year-old animal bridge in Jackson Park that connects Lake Michigan to the Jackson Park lagoon is also being refurbished as part of the South Lake Shore Drive project. The bridge was completely dismantled earlier this year, but construction stopped during the summer to maintain access to the lagoon. Steele said that it should be finished by the end of the year.
Steele said that the community has responded positively to the project despite the inconveniences of the construction. "By and large, the community-both motorists and pedestrians-have done an excellent job adapting to all the changes," he said.
Before the reconstruction project, the Department of Transportation repaved arterial streets like Cottage Grove, Lake Park, Stony Island, and Midway Plaisance and offered these as alternate routes during construction.