41st Street Pedestrian Bridge Awarded Midwest Project of the Year

The 41st Street Pedestrian Bridge has been awarded Midwest Project of the Year by Engineering News-Record (ENR.) A new signature pedestrian bridge along Chicago’s lakefront, the 41st Street Pedestrian Bridge is one of five pedestrian bridges built as a result of the City of Chicago’s first-ever bridge design competition “Bridging the Drive”, co-hosted by the Mayor’s office and CDOT. The bridge connects the Bronzeville neighborhood to the lakefront while eliminating dangerous impediments such as the Metra Electric/CN Railroad tracks and the eight-lane Lake Shore Drive. The bridge is an aesthetically pleasing, iconic structure. Instrumental in the project’s success was Chicago-based construction company and contractor, F.H. Paschen.

The 1500-ft. long bridge opened in December 2018 and incorporates twin 240-ft long inclined arches on graceful sweeping S-curves. A rarity in the bridge world, this single-arch supported bridge is even more unique in that the arches are inclined on the outside of the horizontal curvature which created numerous structural challenges, but the F.H. Paschen team met the challenge head-on.

“F.H. Paschen was committed to applying and achieving high-quality control measures for all aspects of the project, and in engaging their top craftsmen,” said Michael Eichten, Lead Design Engineer at AECOM. “From the erection of the curving steel sections to the fabrication of project-specific concrete forms for the varying shaped piers with aesthetic formliners, to the installation of the curving stainless steel handrails, the construction staff’s dedication to the details and to quality is evident with the finished product, which appears flawless. From afar and up close, the bridge’s curving features are smooth and seamless and exceed the expectations of the City of Chicago, and the architect.”

Aesthetic enhancements include formliners on the piers and MSE walls, decorative handrails, accent lighting, and landscaping improvements. LED accent light fixtures highlight bridge elements including the ribs, cables, and piers. The bridge opened six months ahead of schedule, totaled over 62k man-hours, and boasts zero lost time or recordable incidents. Additionally, a temporary bridge was erected to support construction loads, provide protection and a safer working environment over the Metra electric lines, and minimize impact to the railroad tracks that see 263 trains daily.

The design elevates the user experience and the deck’s soft curve makes for a less-intimidating and more manageable distance for pedestrians. It also offers views of the city’s famous skyline and acts as an extension of the park, connecting neighborhoods, and residents.

In a letter from Luis D. Benitez, Chief Bridge Engineer for CDOT, Benitez describes the level of expertise required for a project of this stature as well as the successful execution.

“This unique signature pedestrian bridge with its complex structural design and restrictive project site required near-perfect execution for success, and through the exemplary efforts by all team members, the project was delivered early, under budget, and with complete success. This project has exceeded CDOT’s expectations, with the bridge opening occurring six months earlier than originally planned, and has been embraced by the local community. The unique 41st Street Pedestrian Bridge is a true structural and ground-breaking achievement that is an investment in the local community stimulating economic and recreational growth.”

Mika Stambaugh