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Project Profile: Riverwalk Expansion/Wacker Drive Reconstruction Project

Riverwalk Expansion/Wacker Drive Reconstruction Project

photo credit: Chicago Department of Transportation


Chicago, Illinois

Project Sponsor / Borrower

City of Chicago/Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT)

Program Areas

Project FinanceValue CaptureTIFIA


Highway / Pedestrian


The project encompassed the following elements of the Wacker Drive Reconstruction Project, a major initiative to improve transportation along Wacker Drive, strengthen intermodal links, and establish a continuous pedestrian walkway along the south bank of the Chicago River:

  • Wacker Drive - Full reconstruction of Upper and Lower Wacker Drive from Randolph Street to Congress Drive
  • Riverwalk Expansion Phases 1, 2, and 3 - Adjacent to Wacker Drive from Michigan Avenue to Lake Street, along the south bank of the Main Branch of the Chicago River

The Riverwalk is a public walkway along the banks of the Chicago River, connecting the lakefront with downtown Chicago. It extends from Michigan Avenue to Lake Street, a distance of about 0.7 mile. CDOT constructed the one-block portion from Michigan to Wabash Avenue in 2009 using tax-increment financing.

The remaining Riverwalk phases comprise the six blocks from State Street to Lake Street. Although each block is separated by an existing bridge that crosses the Chicago River, the blocks are connected by at-grade under-bridge connections, providing six continuous blocks of pedestrian walkway along the river. Each block features a distinct theme. Design elements include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, ADA-compliant access, public seating, sustainable native plant landscaping, and recreational spaces. Landscaping replaces the industrial seawall and provides habitat protection and restoration of the Chicago River.

The project improves transportation along this important corridor and enhances safety for pedestrians with bicycle paths and pedestrian trails along the continuous promenade. The project also strengthens intermodal links to public transportation facilities provided by the Chicago Transit Authority and Metro Commuter rail.


$419.5 million (estimated eligible project costs)

  • Wacker Drive - $307.5 million
  • Riverwalk Phase 1 - $9.4 million
  • Riverwalk Phases 2 and 3 - $102.6 million
Funding Sources

TIFIA loan - $98.7 million

Federal funds - $232.7 million

State/Local funds - $88.1 million

Project Delivery / Contract Method


Project Partner


Project Advisors / Consultants

To the Borrower

  • Hunden Strategic Partners - Feasibility and Financial Consultant
  • Ice Miller LLP - Legal Counsel
  • Design team
    • Sasaki Associates Inc.
    • Alfred Benesch & Co


  • TIFIA Legal Advisor - Squire Sanders LLP
  • TIFIA Financial Advisor - Montague DeRose and Associates, LLP/High Street Consulting Group, LLC


Duration / Status

Wacker Drive opened to traffic in November 2012.

Riverwalk Phase 1 completed in 2009.

Riverwalk Phase 2 completed June 2015.

Riverwalk Phase 3 completed October 2016.

TIFIA Credit Assistance

Direct Loan - $98.66 million

The security for the TIFIA loan is a pledge of the City's share of State Motor Fuel Tax Revenue and Project Revenue, which consists of rent and fees derived from tour boats, private boat docking, charter boats, retail leases, advertising, and sponsorships. TIFIA debt service is structured such that the Project Revenue covers TIFIA repayments, minimizing the impact on Motor Fuel Tax Revenue, which serves as back-up security. Interest payments began in 2015 and the final maturity of the TIFIA loan is 2048.

Financial Status / Financial Performance

The TIFIA credit agreement was executed on June 12, 2013.

  • Leveraged innovative financing streams generated by the project to advance the final phases of the Riverwalk Expansion
Related Links / Articles

Chicago Riverwalk Website

Riverwalk Construction Website


Oswaldo Chaves
Chicago Department of Transportation

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