Chicago Bridges



Chicago’s moveable bridges are a unique part of the city’s character, made necessary by the city’s many crossings of a busy river with low banks in the business district. In the 19th century, the Chicago River downtown was the city’s main harbor, always clogged with Great Lakes vessels during the navigation season. Most commercial vessels now dock in the Lake Calumet area, and the city schedules twice-weekly bridge openings for pleasure boats, to avoid interrupting downtown traffic.

Most of the city’s road bridges are trunnion bascule bridges of a type developed specially for Chicago’s conditions. The moveable leaf is balanced by a hidden counterweight so that it can be quickly lifted by an electric motor of approximately 100 hp. The leaf rotates on an axle or trunnion, which keeps the weight of the bridge on a single spot that can easily be supported by foundations in Chicago’s swampy soil.

Many of the railroad bridges use a similar design, but appearance is less important and the counterweight is often above the railroad tracks rather than hidden beneath it.

A few bridges are of the vertical lift type, in which the entire center section spanning the waterway is lifted by cables running over towers at each end.

A talk on Chicago bridges
was given on May 4th, 2012, at the Chicago Architecture Foundation
download the slide show here
download the podcast here

TO LEARN MORE:, a website that catalogs notable bridges nationwide, a similar website
Jim Phillips's website on downtown bridges
The website for the McCormick Tribune Bridgehouse Museum
Learn about a documentary film on Chicago bridges


Chicago River road bridges
Adams St 1927 double-leaf bascule
Ashland Ave, North1936double-leaf basculenot operable
Ashland Ave, South1938double-leaf bascule
California Ave1926double-leaf basculenot operable
Canal St1948double-leaf bascule
Cermak Rd1906Scherzer rolling liftcity’s only Scherzer span, rebuilt 1997
Chicago Ave1914double-leaf bascule
Cicero Ave, South1927double-leaf basculenot operable
Clark St1929double-leaf bascule
Columbus Dr1982double-leaf bascule
Cortland St1902double-leaf basculenot operable
Damen Ave, South1930double-leaf basculenot operable
Dearborn St1963double-leaf bascule
Division St (Canal)1903double-leaf basculenot operable
Division St (River)1904double-leaf basculenot operable
18th St1967single-leaf bascule
Eisenhower Expwy1956double-leaf basculedual bridges, slightly offset
Franklin-Orleans1920double-leaf bascule
Grand Ave1913double-leaf bascule
Halsted St, North (River)1955double-leaf bascule
Halsted St, South1934double-leaf bascule
Harrison St1960double-leaf bascule
Jackson Blvd1916double-leaf bascule
Kinzie St1909single-leaf basculerebuilt at higher level 2003?
Lake Shore Dr1937double-leaf basculedouble-deck
Lake St1916double-leaf basculeupper deck for rapid transit
LaSalle Blvd1928double-leaf bascule
Loomis St1976double-leaf bascule
Madison St1923double-leaf bascule
Michigan Ave1920double-leaf basculedouble-deck
Monroe St1919double-leaf bascule
Ohio St1961double-leaf bascule
Randolph St1984double-leaf bascule
Roosevelt Rd1928double-leaf bascule
State St1949double-leaf basculeBataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge
Van Buren St1956double-leaf bascule
Wabash Ave1930double-leaf bascule
Washington St1913double-leaf bascule
Webster Ave1916double-leaf basculenot operable
Wells St1922double-leaf basculeupper deck for rapid transit

Chicago River railroad bridges
Pennsylvania Lines 1915 vertical lift vertical clearance only 10.5 feet
B&OCT RR1930single-leaf bascule near 16th St;
locked in lifted position
Belt Ry of Chicago1899swingnot operable; east of Cicero Ave.
Chicago & North Western Ry1908single-leaf basculenot operable; near Kinzie St.
Chicago & North Western Ry1916single-leaf basculenot operable; near Webster St.
Eight-Track Bridge1910single-leaf bascule not operable; four bridges back to back;
near Campbell St.
St Charles Air Line1919single-leaf basculerelocated 1931 over new channel; near 16th St.
Illinois Central Iowa Line 7.61899swingnot operable; east of Kedzie Ave.
Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul RR bridge Z-2 NB 4.01902bobtail swingnot operable; near North Ave.
Illinois Northern 8.31899?swingnot operable; at 3600W
Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul RR bridge Z-6 NB 4.41899bobtail swingnot operable; near Cortland St.
Chicago & Alton RR1907Page basculenot operable; over Bubbly Creek
Chicago & Illinois Western Ry1914Rall basculenot operable; over Collateral Canal

Calumet River road bridges
92nd St 1914 double-leaf bascule
92nd St 1914 double-leaf bascule
95th St1958double-leaf bascule
100th St1927double-leaf bascule
106th St1929double-leaf bascule
Torrence Ave1938vertical lift

Calumet River railroad bridges
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Ry 1972 vertical lift near 92nd St.
Baltimore & Ohio RR1914single-leaf basculenot operable; struck by barge c. 1982
Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Ry1915vertical liftpermanently raised; two side-by-side spans near 97th St.
Pittsburgh, Ft Wayne & Chicago Ry1913vertical liftnear 97th St.
Chicago & Western Indiana RR1968vertical lift known as “Cummings drawbridge”; east of Torrence Ave. is a labor of love by Dennis McClendon at Chicago CartoGraphics, and is part of a site called