3-15-2020-4-43-02-PM-10989434

Ford City bridge will fall

Curtis says it will happen this year

By Tim Hadac

A bridge that, in a small way, helped America win World War II and later helped introduced a generation to a new way of shopping, will fall this year, 18th Ward Ald. Derrick Curtis recently announced.

The Ford City Drive bridge over Pulaski RoadÑwhich for decades has fallen into disuse and disrepairÑwill reportedly be taken apart later this year by the Illinois Department of Transportation as part of its FY 2018-2023 Proposed Highway Improvement Program.

“This improvement has been a long time coming,” Curtis said. “I think that when people see the final result, they will be pleasedÑpedestrians and drivers [of vehicles] alike.”

The bridge and its twin over Cicero Avenue were built in 1944 to assist with the large amount of traffic generated on Ford City Drive from shift changes and deliveries at the Dodge Chicago Plant (on the grounds of what 20 years later would be the Ford City Shopping Center).

At the site, Dodge employed several thousand men and women who built aircraft engines at a 6.3 million-foot plant.

Years later, when defense plants left the site and were replaced by Ford City’s retail shops, restaurants, movie theaters and more in the mid-1960s, Ford City Drive (a rough equivalent of what would be 77th Street) and its bridges played a important role in getting shoppers to and from the new development quickly and safely.

With mall traffic declining in the 1980s, Ford City Drive deteriorated into a pothole pocked strip of old asphalt. The bridge at Cicero was demolished decades ago, and the crumbling bridge over Pulaski (as well as its access ramps) is a ghost of its former self.

It “no longer serves intended purpose” and today is “a public safety hazard,” according to an IDOT description, with crumbling concrete a growing threat to the well-being of motorists and passengers in the estimated 36,900 vehicles that pass under it ever 24 hours.

IDOT’s plan is to remove the bridge and ramps, extend the northbound left-turn lane on Pulaski at 76th Street, and construct a sidewalk along the east side of Pulaski, between 76th and 77th Streets.

An IDOT spokesman did not respond to a Greater Southwest News-Herald request for a projected timeline or estimate on when the bridge would be removedÑbut with funding available via Governor JB Pritzker’s budget passed by the General Assembly last yearÑit looks like the project will advance.

An IDOT-supplied history of the project notes that removal of the bridge was requested by then-13th Ward Ald. Frank Olivo in 2007, and that the current first phase of the project has been going on for eight years.

(Editor’s Note: More news coverage and photos in the print edition of the Greater Southwest News-Herald, available on local newsstands. Or better yet, call 708-496-0265 during weekday business hours and order convenient home delivery for about 50 cents a week.)

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