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Congress Parkway Bridges

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North Elevation

No, the span is not raised for the crew skulls to pass, the inbound side of the parkway spans is closed for rehabilitation. The west leaf is currently parked in the open position.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2010

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Description 

Two double-leaf bascule bridges over the South Branch of the Chicago River. Contrary to urban myth, these bridges do not carry I-290. The I-290 terminus is about 1/2 mile to the west at the Circle Interchange with the Kennedy and Dan Ryan Expressways.

Essay 

Written by J.R. Manning

Congress Parkway is not really I-290, there really aren't many movable bridges on the Interstate Highway System anymore╣. Congress Parkway is the extension of The Eisenhower Expressway. Some locals refer to the Eisenhower as "The Ike" and it carries I-290. I-290 technically terminates at the interchange known locally as "The Circle" where the Eisenhower, the Kennedy Expressway and the Dan Ryan Expressway all come together. (The Kennedy and the Dan Ryan carry I-90 and I-94.) The Circle is also known as "The Spaghetti Bowl" and is the location of two miserable traffic jams each day. In 2004, The Circle was ranked as the third most congested interchange in the United States. Estimates are that drivers waste 25 million man-hours per year while trapped in The Circle.

The route carried by the Eisenhower Expressway continues as an elevated surface highway into Chicago's South Loop after going through a building that used to be Chicago's main post office. Although the post office moved out in 1996 and no development has occured in the privately-owned, empty structure, the building is still referred to as "The Post Office" or "The Old Post Office." Local traffic reporters refer to the Eisenhower Expressway as starting at "The Old Post Office."

About 200 feet east of the building, Congress Parkway crosses a pair of bascule Bridges, built in 1956 for the purpose of carrying Eisenhower Expressway traffic in and out of the South Loop. Although some people refer to this stretch of the roadway as "The Eisenhower Expressway" the bridges are clearly signed "Congress Parkway."

As of this writing, the bridges are under reconstruction, the goal is to increase the load rating, replace the open steel decking with a solid, skid-resistant surface, change lane configurations and to improve lighting and survalance. The bridges themselves are being restored//upgraded structurally, electrically and mechanically.

In 2010, the inbound (eastbound) bridge is closed for the project. Inbound lanes have been restricted to two lanes and moved to the outbound span. Outbound traffic has been restricted to one lane. Entrance and exit ramps on the east side of the river have been closed to mitigate traffic congestion in the resulting bottle neck.

The work is scheduled to be completed in October. In 2011, the entire process will repeat with the outbound span.

The Ike was originally named the Congress Expressway. When it was renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway, popular columnist Mike Royko said it was Chicago's only Republican expressway since all the others were named for Democrats.

Regardless, the "Old Post Office" remains the unofficial welcome arch to The Loop and the bascule bridges over the Chicago River are an important link between Chicago's surface streets and expressway system.

╣ - There are, reportedly, between eight and twelve movable bridges on the Interstate Highway system. These bridges are not really a part of that category.

Facts 

Overview
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Congress Parkway in Chicago
Location
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois
Status
Open to traffic
History
Built 1956; Rehabilitated 2010-2012
Design
Double-leaf Bascule, twin bridges
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 221.4 ft.
Total length: 334.9 ft.
Deck width: 83.6 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 17.2 ft.
Also called
South Branch Chicago River I-290 Bridge (Incorrect)
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.87556, -87.63583   (decimal degrees)
41°52'32" N, 87°38'09" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/447239/4636154 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Chicago Loop
Inventory numbers
IL 016-2445 (Illinois bridge number)
BH 15164 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection (as of 08/2012)
Deck condition rating: Excellent (9 out of 9)
Superstructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 68.0 (out of 100)
Average daily traffic (as of 2012)
66,600

Update Log 

  • November 30, 2015: New Street View added by Douglas Butler
  • November 25, 2015: New photos from Royce and Bobette Haley
  • September 22, 2013: New Street View added by Michael Miller
  • December 15, 2012: Updated by Roger Deschner: Rehab work completed and bridge now fully reopened.
  • September 30, 2012: New photos from Steve Conro
  • June 1, 2010: New photo from J.R. Manning
  • May 10, 2010: Essay added by J.R. Manning

Sources 

  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • Steve Conro - sconro [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Roger Deschner - rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Douglas Butler
  • Michael Miller - michael_a_miller [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Royce and Bobette Haley - roycehaley111 [at] yahoo [dot] com