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Fullerton bridge rehab project complete

The FullertParkway Bridge Chicago Ill. Friday December 7 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

The Fullerton Parkway Bridge in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, December 7, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 9, 2013 6:10AM

A nine-month project to rebuild the historic Fullerton Parkway Bridge is over, and drivers, bikers and people on a stroll will notice some big changes.

The $12 million project, part of Mayor Emanuel’s infrastructure renewal program, was reopened to all traffic on Friday and included adding a second right turn lane for eastbound car traffic getting onto southbound Lake Shore Drive.

But to do that, the city took the sidewalk south of the parkway from pedestrians and bikers. Previously drivers had to abide by a “turning vehicles yield to pedestrians” sign on that stretch, although some drivers sped their way onto the southbound Lake Shore Drive ramp.

A pathway on the north side of the road has been widened about seven more feet to accommodate an increase in bike and foot traffic to and from the lakefront.

Those who tend to travel, by foot or on bike, on the south side of the parkway will now have to use a new path that slopes downward toward the lagoon, crosses under Fullerton and then comes back up and connects with the north sidewalk.

Other additions include improving drainage for a new 20-foot-wide underpass west of the Lagoon, and the elimination of a center pier of the bridge to free up more room for rowers.

Just before Ald. Michele Smith and Congressman Mike Quigley lifted up one of the last barriers to allow traffic on all five lanes, the alderman called the bridge a big part of the Lincoln Park community.

“This is more than just a bridge that will get thousands of commuters more easily to downtown everyday,” Smith said. “It’s also a pedestrian experience, a bicycling experience, a running experience — all in a more safe environment because of the way the traffic will not be moved all to this one side of the bridge.”

Quigley spoke of the need for funding for transportation infrastructure, even in light of the fiscal cliff crisis.

“It’s just common sense. When we talk about these debates in (Washington) D.C. about funding, we talk about jobs built,” Quigley said. “We often get lost in the nuance there, but this is what it’s about. It’s simply about getting from one place to another.”

He called for the passing of a long-term transportation bill and plan that would last for about 10 years, “so local governments and state governments know what we’re going to work with.”

The Fullerton project was completed on time and on budget, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. The bridge was built in 1940 and was replaced because of its deteriorated condition. It’s expected to last at least 50 years.

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