CDOT official says Darrow Bridge will remain closed for years

Staff Writer

Jackson Park’s Clarence Darrow Bridge will likely remain closed for for several more years before pedestrians can use it.

That’s according to Chicago Department of Transportation assistant chief engineer for bridges Luis Benitez, who told an audience at last Monday’s Jackson Park Advisory Council meeting that the bridge’s repair will involve three lengthy phases: conducting an engineering study, design and construction.

“To give you a timeline, we will not be able to start construction until the end of 2017,” Benitez said.

Funding has been secured for the first two phases — 80 percent of which will be paid for by the state — but not the last. All three phases together are expected to cost millions of dollars, according to a follow-up interview with Benitez.

Federal law dictates that as part of the restoration process the bridge must be advertised for sale, according to Benitez, because it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If it is sold, it may be moved elsewhere by its buyer and replaced with a new bridge; if not, the existing bridge will be salvaged to the extent possible and otherwise replaced in kind.

“Hopefully we start in a couple of months, and we’re going to have a couple of meetings to get all of your input,” Benitez said at Monday’s meeting.

The bridge has been closed since last November due to safety concerns, a decision Benitez and CDOT civil engineer Tanera Adams defended as absolutely necessary.

“It’s in such bad shape that we really made the decision that we would not want the liability,” Adams said. “It’s 126 years old. We had to close it down.”