Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday announced that the the city of Chicago has closed on the loan needed to complete the “Chicago Riverwalk.” The $99 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will be used to complete the Chicago Riverwalk along the main branch of the Chicago River.
The TIFIA loan, or capital assistance, is intended for projects of national or regional significance, like the Chicago Riverwalk. Fast Lane, the official blog of the Department of Transportation said that “when complete, the Riverwalk will be a model for how infrastructure investments can revitalize communities. It represents the kind of big and bold thinking we need right now in America.”
A six-block project, known as the “Chicago Riverwalk,” that would run along the south bank of the Chicago River from State Street to West Lake Street will become a reality sometime in 2016. Ground breaking should occur around early 2014.
“This loan will help us continue to make investments that will turn the Chicago River from an industrial highway into the city’s new transportation destination,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The Chicago River is our second shoreline, and the downtown Riverwalk and new boathouses will have a positive impact in neighborhoods across the City.”
Secretary LaHood cited the positive impact of the project. “President Obama called on us to ‘Fix it First’ by creating jobs and improving transportation to strengthen our economy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The Chicago Riverwalk and Wacker Drive Reconstruction will do all of that and more.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is grateful to Secretary LaHood.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is going to miss Secretary Ray LaHood, as Ray LaHood prepares to leave his cabinet position as the Secretary of USDOT. After all, Ray LaHood has been good to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. They both served as Congressmen from Illinois together for six years and for several years and Emanuel was President Obama’s chief-of-staff as Ray LaHood was appointed to the post and approved by the United States Senate.
The latest show of gratitude from Mayor Emanuel to Secretary LaHood is the announcement that USDOT will clear a $100 million loan by June for Chicago to extend the Chicago Riverwalk–another six blocks on the south bank of the waterway.
“Under Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation, we have the total rehab of the Red Line being built,” Emanuel said. “Under Ray LaHood, the 95th Street Station has been funded and totally rebuilt.”
Ray LaHood also intervened to keep the O’Hare expansion and modernization project on track, when financially troubled airlines were threatening to cut it short and he has helped numerous transportation projects downstate. When people ask, “What exactly has Barack Obama done for us lately?” the answer from Governor Quinn and officials across Illinois involves two words: Ray LaHood. They’ll all miss him, reported Fox News political reporter Mike Flannery recently.
“The Chicago Riverwalk project is taking the city’s traditional strength and making it greener, transforming the area from an industrial corridor into an urban sanctuary,” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said. “I commend Mayor Emanuel and Secretary LaHood for making this monumental project a reality. This is another example of what is possible when government works for the people.”
In 2009, CDOT completed the first phase of the Riverwalk build-out at Michigan Avenue and Wabash, which was funded through Tax Increment Financing.
In 2010, CDOT issued an RFP/RFQ for the team to finalize the design of the framework plan developed through the city’s Riverwalk Development Committee. In May 2011, the chosen design team of Sasaki Associates Inc., Alfred Benesch & Co., Ross Barney Architects and Jacobs/Ryan Associates began work on the design plans for the next six blocks from State to Lake.
The Riverwalk design plans include conceptual ideas for each of the six blocks from State Street west to Lake Street with distinctive identities and purpose, thematically named: The Marina (from State to Dearborn); The Cove (Dearborn to Clark); The River Theater (Clark to LaSalle); The Swimming Hole (LaSalle to Wells); The Jetty (Wells to Franklin) and The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake).
The bridges over the river establish a boundary between each block, which allow for each to have a unique identity and landscaping. Each block will be linked by the continuous walkway along the river, beneath each bridge. The design of the blocks has considered the previous feasibility studies and the changing operations of the waterway.
The Marina is designed to accommodate restaurant retail space and public seating. The River Theater will serve as the location for the vertical access between Upper Wacker and the Riverwalk level. The Cove may allow for human-powered watercraft to dock.
The Swimming Hole provides a great area for recreation, which may include a water feature such as a zero-depth fountain. The Jetty is a location for learning about the ecology of the river, with floating gardens and piers for fishing. The Boardwalk, still in a conceptual stage of design, will bring people from Upper Wacker down to the Riverwalk level.
The plans reflect the build-out limits and general design of the entire riverwalk project which was agreed upon through a public development process in 1999.
The United States Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers and other waterway stakeholders – community groups, commercial operators and the recreational users of the river – continue to play an important role in shaping the development of the Riverwalk plans.
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group, Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books. John has volunteered for many political campaigns.