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Reconstruction to Wells Street Bridge underway

A year-long reconstruction project began Monday on a downtown Chicago drawbridge that has been in use for nearly ninety years.

The $41.2 million project is expected to finish by the end of November 2013 on the Wells Street Bridge spanning the Chicago River, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) spokesman Pete Scales said.

"It's in need of repair, it's in need of replacement. It's been functioning for ninety years, but it's in a condition that's deteriorated and needs to be replaced," Scales said in a phone interview Monday.  He added that the steel framing of the bridge, which officials said has been in service since 1922, "really needs to be repaired."

CDOT and CTA spokespeople confirmed Monday that a rebuilding effort will also take place at the 'L' structure junction at Lake and Wells St. The work will require two nine-day closures of the Wells bridge to CTA Brown and Purple Line trains in March and April next year, officials said in a statement.

While work on the bridge is underway, officials said in a statement, southbound vehicular and pedestrian traffic on Wells St. will be rerouted onto the LaSalle and Clark St. bridges. Southbound bicycle traffic will be directed to the Clark St. bridge.

Officials said in the statement that CDOT has been working to notify surrounding businesses and neighborhood organizations affected by the renovations.

But Sandra Moad, who manages an office furniture show room next to Wells Street Bridge and across the street from the Merchandise Mart, said she is still concerned about a decrease in foot traffic in the long-term.

"We’ve actually had more traffic in here today than what we usually have [...] But I do expect a slow down. Typically, we get people walking in off the streets and if they’re not walking on the streets than they don’t see us," Moad said on Monday. She said she reacted with "trepidation" when she first heard about the renovations.

Moad added that she's particularly worried about a lack of pedestrian foot traffic during a trade show next June—but she said she's not concerned for the health of her business.

"We'll just work around it, that's all we can do," she said.

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