Lakefront Trail Pedestrian Bridge

Firm:HNTB Corporation

Other Consultants:Chicago Department of Transportation, Illinois Department of Transportation, Chicago Park District, Muller & Muller, Kowalenko Consulting Group, Carol Naughton & Associates, Inc., T.Y. Lin International Group, Schuler Shook, Dynasty Group, Ground Engineering Consultants, Inc., WSP, Hillsdale Fabricators, F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen, Granite


Description:It is rare for a project to achieve the perfect balance of form, function and aesthetics as that of the Lakefront Trail Pedestrian Bridge, which now fully connects the north and south paths of Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.

The Chicago Lakefront Trail spans 18 miles along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and serves as a major access point to the city’s tourist cornerstone, the Chicago Navy Pier.

The trail contains 50 access points and is considered the busiest pedestrian path in the country. For several years, poor conditions have been major contributing factors to accidents along this section of the trail.

To make full use of the Lakefront Trail, and to transverse from the segment south of the Chicago River to the segment north of the Lakepointe Tower, users would have to venture through a treacherous path.

As the prime consultant, HNTB worked with the City of Chicago to develop a bridge configuration that was functional and aesthetically-pleasing. This required an elevated level of coordination with the architectural and structural teams as well as the civil, geotechnical, electrical, landscaping and wayfinding professionals.

Due to the visible location of the proposed structure and the Navy Pier facilities, bridge aesthetics played a crucial role in the design.

The bridge design incorporated innovative new techniques in the architectural steel railings and panels, custom steel deck nosing and an LED lighting system to improve visibility. As a result, the railing is becoming a Chicago staple used in many local state-of-the-art architectural projects.

Functionally, the bridge used concepts typically found in rollercoasters, a first-time application on a North American bridge.

Knowing that the bridge will experience heavy use during special events, HNTB used innovative concepts to resist torsion and allow for temperature-driven expansion and contraction.

The project’s completion has brought social and economic benefits to Chicago’s Lakefront. At its busiest points, the trail attracts nearly 30,000 pedestrians, runners and bicycle commuters daily during the peak summer season. Because of the designers’ mindfulness of public needs during design and construction, users have expressed appreciation for the unimpeded and safer path that is actually faster for the commuters.

The project’s pathway presented complex challenges, HNTB developed a creative structural design concept that would allow the bridge to curve up, down and around as needed, creating a visual impact that has been described as an airplane taking off and soaring into flight.

By successfully addressing the project’s complexities, designing a visually appealing structure and improving multi-modal access, the owner’s goals were met and exceeded. Today, Chicago, an architecturally savvy city, has another signature structure to enhance their culture. Locals appreciate the increased real estate value and the improved functionality that makes the bridge more multi-modal friendly. As the connector between the Lakefront and Navy Pier, tourists now have a bridge to marvel at en route to Chicago’s most notable tourist attractions.


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