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Steel Shots: Repairing America’s Bridges
Posted by Tasha Weiss on February 15, 2013 at 5:52 PM.

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Pictured above is Chicago’s Wells Street Bridge, which is currently undergoing a $41.2-million reconstruction. According to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the double-decker bridge’s historic elements, railings, bridge houses and major structural components will be replaced to preserve the 1920s look. Crews will also replace the trusses and all of the steel framing for the lower level road and upper level railway structures, as well as the mechanical and electrical components. Officials say the new bridge is being built off-site near the South Branch of the Chicago River, and the completed components will be floated in on barges and erected on-site by the end of November. Photo: AISC

 

In the State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Obama stressed the importance of investing in American infrastructure and proposed a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgently needed repairs, such as the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.

 

The majority of bridges in this country were built in the mid-1900s, such that the average bridge is currently 43 years old. While material and coating technologies today suggest a bridge lifespan of almost 100 years, that wasn’t the case when many of these structures were built. The majority of our bridges are now reaching the end of their service lives at a time when money isn’t available to repair or replace them. (Click here to read more about the need for funding for our nation’s bridges from the November 2011 issue of MSC.)

 

The good news is that some bridges are receiving the repair work they need. One of them is Chicago’s Wells Street Bridge over the Main Branch of the Chicago River, which is currently undergoing a $41.2-million renovation.

 

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) closed the bridge to traffic and pedestrians beginning last November for a year-long reconstruction project. Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains will continue to use the bridge during construction, except for two nine-day service interruptions this spring.

 

“This is a great opportunity to fully restore the historic Wells Street Bridge, which has outlived its useful life and is in need of a complete reconstruction,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “It has been in service since 1922, and has been a key transportation link for cars, trains, bikes and pedestrians for the past 90 years.”

 

According to CDOT, the bridge’s historic elements, railings, bridge houses and major structural components will be replaced to preserve its 1920s look. Crews will also replace the trusses and all of the steel framing for the lower level road and upper level railway structures, as well as the mechanical and electrical components.

 

Officials say the new bridge is being built off-site near the South Branch of the Chicago River, and the completed components will be floated in on barges and erected on-site by the end of November.

 

For more information about the Wells Street Bridge reconstruction project, visit www.cityofchicago.org. Learn more about the history of the Wells Street Bridge — which celebrated 90 years of service last year — in our previous news post, here


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