Blackstone, Harper, 54th work now expected to finish in December

The corner of 53rd Street and Blackstone Avenue shows little evidence that construction is nearing completion. (Photo by Owen M. Lawson III)

Staff Writer

Since early June, Blackstone and Harper Avenues and 54th Street have been an obstacle course of broken pavement, pot holes and parking limitations.

Since beginning work in June, Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM) work on 54th Street and Blackstone and Harper avenues has drawn the ire of area residents angry about limited parking and other construction-related inconveniences.

At a mid-October community meeting, representatives from the city and Benchmark Construction, the contractor, estimated that work would be completed by Thanksgiving. The Department of Water Management now estimates that work will be completed around two weeks after the holiday, blaming cold weather earlier this month.

The project was reported to be seven weeks behind schedule at mid-October meeting, which means it will be completed at least nine weeks behind schedule.

The DWM said that construction work is “basically” done, though asphalt-laying is weather-dependent, and restoration work like milling, re-paving and landscaping remains to be completed, which is estimated to take another two weeks.

While a DWM spokeswoman said that the department is trying to allay the construction-related hardships affecting residents’ quality of life, vehicles traveling the streets continue to kick up clouds of dust, and parking restrictions will stay in place until Nov. 30 and Dec. 8.

Residents are also angry about a lack of communication about the project.

“Before my neighbors organized ourselves to reach out to the various offices, no updates or plans were provided. But still, we have no clear information on when it will be completed and when things will be back to normal,” said Yaping Wang, who lives in Blackstone.

“The construction made the streets so difficult to walk on. We rarely take my nine-month-old out for a walk since it’s dust and uneven streets everywhere. There are so many sand and stones left on the ground around the intersections, it made crossing with a stroller super difficult,” Wang said. “There has been weeks and weeks that the street is just left as it. No workers, no machines, just dust, sand and small stones everywhere.”

The DWM says it has been giving weekly updates to Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) about the construction progress. The Herald has sought comment from her on the matter.