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Steel Shots: All Rise
Posted by Tom Klemens on April 15, 2011 at 9:09 AM.


Sunrise over Chicago’s North Lake Shore Drive Bridge, the first of 18 movable bridges that cross the Chicago River in the two-mile stretch beginning at Lake Michigan. (They’re all steel bridges, by the way.) From mid-April until early fall the city coordinates a lift schedule with local boat storage yards to minimize the disruption to surface traffic in the city caused by raising the bridges. Photos: Robert Johnson (sunrise), James Phillips (raised bridge).


Well, spring has come to Chicago, and there’s no more sure sign than that the Chicago Department of Transportation has posted its Spring 2011 Bridge Lift Schedule. Every Wednesday and Saturday beginning tomorrow, April 16, the city will raise the bridges in sequence along the river to allow primarily sailboats to make their way from storage yards out to Lake Michigan and back.

Although the bridges also are raised at other times, a coordinated schedule with boat storage yards helps keep the impact on downtown surface traffic to a minimum. To learn more about the spring bridge lift season, including a link to the schedule, visit the City of Chicago website by clicking here.


For some interesting background and insight into Chicago’s movable bridges, take a look at “Two Miles - Eighteen Bridges: A Walk Along the Chicago River, ” by James S. Phillips. A native of New Mexico, Phillips split his engineering career between private industry and teaching math and engineering courses at the community college level. He is currently on sabbatical in Chicago where he continues to gather information on bascule bridges in Chicago’s Loop and also leads tours. His 172-page book, published online in 2008, is available at and provides both an historical context for these wonderful and diverse structures as well as technical insight into how they work. The included photos and maps make this a good guide for a Chicago outing (or two). For just $3.75, the book can be read online, through Scribd, or downloaded as a PDF file. It also is available in a format for mobile devices. You can learn more by visiting Phillips’ Chicago Loop Bridges Facebook page, accessible by clicking here.


And when you plan your Chicago River bridge tour this summer, make sure to include the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum, which opens with a preview this year on May 14, Chicago River Day. Throughout the summer you can observe the bridge’s inner workings up close in the river-level gear room or from the top of the bridge tower. Visit for details or to make reservations. And welcome to summer in Chicago!

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