North Avenue Bridge in Chicago

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North Avenue Bridge

1200 West North Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, Lincoln Park 60622
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Text by Wayne Lorentz

It's always the workhorses of Chicago that never get noticed. The bits of infrastructure that are so essential to our everyday lives that we forget they are there. The North Avenue Bridge is one of those forgettable structures. But not for much longer. The long-decaying bridge is being replaced by a new span. A span with a design that most cities would consider a showcase attraction. In Chicago's case, it will still cross the same barge-littered industrial backwater it always did, but this time it will do it with class.

The new North Avenue Bridge is both a suspension bridge, and a cable stay bridge. The center of the main span is held aloft by suspension cables, while the remainder of the roadway is supported by cables which radiate from the towers.

But there's more than simple form to this bridge. It is far more functional than the old one. The 1907 North Avenue Bridge had just one lane in each direction, though Chicago drivers often attempted to make four lanes out of the situation. The new bridge will actually have two full lanes each way, and will have the same clearance as the old drawbridge (technically a trunnion bascule bridge).

Quick Facts
    > The original North Avenue Bridge is considered an historic piece of engineering. The city of Chicago offered it to other cities, but none wanted it.
    > In designing this new bridge, the location and view of the Loop skyline was taken into consideration. The bridge attempts to maximize that view.
    > The clearance under the bridge is 18 feet.
    > The bridge deck is four feet thick.
    > 1907 - The North Avenue bridge is completed.
    > 1972 - The last time the North Avenue bridge was raised.
    > 2006 - Work begins on the new North Avenue Bridge.
    > 2007 - The new North Avenue Bridge is completed.
Did You Know?
    A plaque on the original bridge read: "1907
    Fred A. Busse - Mayor
    John J. Hanberg.
    Commissioner of Public Works. John Ericson, City Engineer.
    Thos. G. Pihlfeldt
    City Bridge Engineer.
    Alexander von Babo, Structural Designer."
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Your Thoughts

There are five comments.

  To update this, the new hybrid bridge was put in service on May 23, 2008. The loss of commercial shipping of anything more than barge height on the Chicago River has certainly opened up new options for bridge design, though doubtless pleasure sailboats with fixed masts will continue to require bascule bridges on the lower stretches of the river for the foreseeable future.

Alan Follett - Friday, October 12th, 2012 @ 11:09am  

  In light of recent events, new bridge construction is crucial for traffic safety. According to CNN reports 4583/26103 of Illinois bridges are deemed deficient or obsolete. It is a good thing that this bridge was replaced, but I am sure there are more that need replacement such as those on Divison or Halsted.

Jay - Thursday, August 2nd, 2007 @ 10:26pm  

  I believe this will be a great addition to Chicago, I am not sure if anyone has done thier research, but this bridge will be the first of its kind in the U.S.A.

Anthony - Thursday, March 15th, 2007 @ 7:12pm  

  There are many people, particularly those with historical engineering backgrounds, who feel that the historic bridge was far more beautiful. Along with the other similar (but note, not identical) bridges in Chicago, all these bridges create a feeling of history and heritage in Chicago and are far more representative of what makes Chicago special than this new "toy" bridge they are currently building.

Nathan Holth - Wednesday, October 18th, 2006 @ 5:22pm