Behind the scenes of Chicago's Riverwalk expansion - New York News

Behind the scenes of Chicago's Riverwalk expansion

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Tourists on the Chicago River expect to see bridges, occasional kayakers and historic architecture. However, between State and LaSalle right now, all they see and hear is construction.

The 43-million dollar extension of the Riverwalk is exactly what that construction is.

“We get phone calls from people who can see from these high-rises around us, saying what are they doing, what are they doing?! And we say, they are backfilling, this is a normal thing,” said Margaret Frisbie of Friends of the Chicago River.

Frisbie said when the dust settles, Chicagoans will appreciate the Riverwalk.

“It’s a great project, it's really going to bring people down to the river in a way that we haven't had an opportunity to,” added Frisbie.

By the end of the year, there will be restaurants, an area for small boats and kayaks, and a river theater. The shoreline’s also being built out 20 feet into the river, which is a very delicate undertaking.

“You're going around everything imaginable. Right underneath it is the Red Line subway; you have the Chicago freight tunnel network, you have water mains feeding the central business district, you have telecommunications systems, you have power, you have everything imaginable there,” said Dan Burke of the Chicago Department of Transportation.

One effect of the construction has been to narrow the portions of the river that are available to passing boats.

“We really haven't had to change much, as far as the route and everything. We've just been going slower,” said President of Wendella Sightseeing Company Mike Borgstrom.

He also said that recreational boaters need to be careful too.

“They need to know to treat that section as a construction zone, like on a highway. It’s very narrow in there,” added Borgstrom.

And for tourists who don't mind the noise and dust, "going slower" past the Riverfront project can actually be a pleasant surprise.

”For anyone who enjoys construction, it's all right there on the Chicago riverfront,” said Burke.

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