Wabash construction in last phase

By Ashley Badgley

Chicago has been changing the face of Wabash Avenue since 2007, and the construction is in its final stages. Construction from Wacker Drive to Harrison Street is complete, but work from Harrison Street to Roosevelt Road, on the west side of the street, is ongoing.

The purpose of the Wabash Avenue project is to make the street look better and be a safer and more pleasant environment for the city, said Brian Steele, spokesperson for the Chicago Department of


Construction is expected to be complete in fall 2009, Steele said.

“The work on the west side will continue through late fall of this year,” Steele said. “A lot of it is weather permitting.”

This winter in Chicago has had a lot of rain, snow and cold. The weather changes have left potholes everywhere, but Steele said he believes there will be no delays or added costs in construction. He said this spring and summer will run smoothly.

“We are within [our] budget, and we are on time,” Steele said. “Let’s just hope winter is over.”

Chicago changed the city’s Construction or Demolition Site Waste Recycling Ordinance on Jan. 1, 2007, to require all contractors to recycle at least 50 percent of construction waste from the site. This minimum recycling requirement was the first of this kind of ordinance for Chicago.

With Wabash Avenue construction, Steele said “whenever feasible, we reuse any construction debris from projects.”

Recycling materials from the project is the duty of the contractor, who recycles the materials they can and then provides the city’s Department of Environment with information about their recycled waste.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency comes into play if a company does not do the required recycling stated in the construction and demolition ordinance.

This type of recycling doesn’t occur in “quite a few” construction projects,  said IEPA spokesperson Chris Liebman.  He said he doesn’t know if there have been any violations on Wabash Avenue construction thus far.

“We only get involved if a contractor is disposing of waste outside of a landfill,” Liebman said.

The construction companies hold the responsibility of making sure everything is disposed of properly, said IEPA spokesperson Maggie Carson.

“The bottom line is, the debris needs to be managed properly,” she said. “Any materials classified as construction demolition debris, we want to be sure it’s [recycled] and anything that might be a contaminant is managed in a solid waste landfill.”

Carson said if construction sites are maintained correctly, there should be no health hazards because all recyclable debris is safe for the environment and human health.

“The point is to ensure that only [recyclable] materials are disposed of in this manner,” Carson said.

Residents can request information on a site’s debris recycling from the Department of the Environment, said DOE spokesperson Larry Merritt. Until the Wabash Avenue construction is complete, records are not available on ongoing projects.