Riverview Bridge

Firm: Epstein

Other Consultants:Lin Engineering, Environmental Design International, GSG Consultants, Singh & Associates, Hoerr Schaudt Landscape, UrbanLab, ICC Group

Owner:City of Chicago Department of Transportation

Description:The Chicago River Corridor Development Plan, published in 1999, had a vision for a continuous riverfront trail throughout the city’s limits. In the plan, it identified a crossing of the North Branch of the Chicago River near Addison Street to connect to California Park northwest of Addison Street and Clark Park southeast of Addison Street. This crossing location was seen as critical because of its opportunity to connect not just those two parks, but also Horner Park to the north. By connecting them all, a car free riverfront trail could be created for nearly two miles from Belmont Avenue to Montrose Avenue. A city-wide continuous riverfront trail could not be completed without this critical connection.

To create this connection, a 1,600-foot-trail along the river bank with a bridge across the river was needed. Significant challenges included major utility relocation, property acquisition, excessive fill in the floodplain, major impacts to existing vegetation and mitigating existing bank erosion. The photo below shows existing conditions on the east bank where the trail was planned. The second photo shows the state of erosion at Addison Street. The businesses were active light manufacturing buildings with only 10 feet between back of building and top of bank.

From public engagement, it was clear the public wanted existing vegetation to be preserved. To meet this objective, the project owner, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) requested the design consultant (Epstein) explore a “soft solution” that did not involve new sheet pile river banks.

To meet these challenges and sometimes conflicting objectives (preserve vegetation, but armor eroding banks), Epstein assembled a visionary team of designers, nautical, structural and civil engineers and landscape architects to augment the city’s staff in an inclusive planning process of information gathering, exploration, synthesizing and visualizing this extension of the North Branch Riverfront Trail. The process included case studies and stakeholder workshops, engaging local and official input at both the individual nodes and along the length of the trail. The team then blended the results, creating a holistic composition from the diverse elements, resulting in an identity for the trail that reflects the community’s culture, commerce and recreation.

Epstein’s design strategy for Riverview Bridge involved the unconventional solution of disengaging the path from the riverbank and elevating the entire structure above the water level. This solution elevates the trail on piers, and locates it within the river, preserving the maximum amount of vegetation and riverbank stability while minimizing scouring and erosion. The bridge design also creates a shadow in the river, which is beneficial for fish looking to escape the heat and predators from above.

The project required a unique partnership between stakeholders, architects, urban designers, landscape architects, structural and civil engineers to create an innovate solution to a common problem of minimizing impacts for riverfront trail design. The solution to separate the trail from the bank was one that can be used in other applications. It is a proven concept that others will look to duplicate where appropriate

City of Chicago Department of Transportation

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