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Riverwalk zip line rendering
Illustration: Ross Barney Architects

Make that zip line across the Chicago River a real thing

Already been on a boat tour? A proposed Chicago River zip line could open up a new way fly across the water in the Loop.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

Imagine zooming across the river to avoid traffic on your way to work. Earlier this year, nine leading architectural firms were invited to dream up new riverfront spaces for the River Edge Ideas Lab. The unrestrained, whimsical results are nothing short of amazing; renderings include interactive performance spaces, pools, massive projection screens and sledding hills. But one idea really caught our attention: Chicago-based Ross Barney Architects proposed a zip line across the river at the old, permanently raised Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Bridge.

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In the illustration, people climb the inactive bridge and gleefully glide across the body of water. Given how much locals and tourists enjoy the simple pleasure of sipping wine on the Riverwalk, we imagine this attraction would summon the masses. Still, the idea of building a zip line seems far-fetched. Right? Maybe not. The firm behind the design has been working on the Chicago Riverfront for the past 15 years.

“We thought about how important this spot is in the city—it connects north, south, east and west paths. We wanted to celebrate that,” says Carol Ross Barney, the firm’s founder and design principal. “It’s kind of playful, but it’s serious, too. You can do things you never thought of doing at the river, and it’s a great opportunity.”

So what happens next? The city is collecting—and encouraging—public feedback on the nine ideas through January 7 at, which means you still have time to beg Mayor Rahm Emanuel for that zip.

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