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Wells Street Bridge Re-Opens To Traffic

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 21, 2013 2:35PM

Photo credit: Chris Wilson

The downtown commute for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians returned to normal this morning with the re-opening of the Wells Street Bridge after a yearlong reconstruction project.

The Bascule bridge was built in 1922 and was in need of extensive repair when the Chicago Department of Transportation announced the project last November. CDOT replaced the bridge’s trusses and railings, steel framing for the upper railway and lower road structures, electrical and mechanical components and bridge houses while preserving the roaring 20s look of the bridge. Service on CTA’s Brown and Purple Lines was shut down for two nine-day stretches in March and April as the transit agency rebuilt the structure junction at Lake and Wells—aka Tower 18.

While the traffic reroutes were annoying for most the manpower and engineering implemented in the bridges reconstruction was breathtaking at times with the speed and precision with which they were carried out. A 150-foot span of the bridge’s middle needed to be replaced and the installation of a new bridge leaf in March was a popular subject with photography buffs.

Chicago is home to more Bascule bridges than any other city in the world with 37 of the structures crossing the Chicago River. Many of them made the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois’ 2013 list of the 10 most endangered places in the state in May.