The political history of Chicago and the "political machine" in my opinion still influences the operation of the city government even today. Bridge projects in Chicago are developed in near-secrecy, with absolutely no input from the public and no public notification when projects are in the all-important design stage, even when Section 106 applies and requires by law public input. No project websites are available. Many bridges in downtown Chicago have been preserved, but this is likely more the result of government official realizing the obvious tourism benefit these bridges provide, and not the result of good, transparent project development process that involve public input and consulting parties. Bridges like this one, outside of the Loop are not being preserved.
The bascule bridge management plan described in the article cited below is also being developed in complete secrecy. To my knowledge the Historic Bridge Foundation, the leading national advocacy group for historic bridges, has never been consulted about this program, nor have I been consulted about the program even though I have a published book about Chicago's bridges and the largest, most complete documentation of Chicago's historic bridges on the Internet, and over 10 years experience working with the preservation of historic bridges.
The loss of this important bridge is tragic and the way that loss was plotted heightens the tragedy and the threat to other significant bridges.
Sad also is the fact that, when one comes to this page to learn more about the bridge, the first illustration that one must view is a crude sketch that doesn't look at all like the bridge and even trivializes the structure.
Read this and worry. This article at http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/strmlng/newsletters/oct14nl.... describes how demolition of this historic 111 year old bridge was fast tracked, circumventing historical and environmental review processes such as Section 106 designed to prevent exactly this kind of tragedy from occurring. They basically played a shell game among federal, state, and municipal agencies to trade off responsibility for the project to whomever had the best change of getting away with destroying history. The article holds the Division Street Bridge out as a model for how other historic but deteriorated bridges could be demolished quickly before anyone has a chance to save them. This appears to open up a way to gut Section 106. This is very bad news for bridge preservationists, on top of the bad news of the destruction of this particularly distinctive, historic bridge.
The bridge is gone. Story, and a photo of the bridge being demolished: http://arcchicago.blogspot.com/2014/09/division-street-bridg...
It has been replaced by a temporary Bailey Bridge while a new fixed-span arch bridge is built. I fear this will be the fate of all the historic bascule bridges on the North Branch of the Chicago River, which is why Landmarks Illinois named them to its list of the ten most endangered historic places in 2013. http://www.landmarks.org/ten_most_2013_chicago_bascule_bridg... This bridge, though, was the most distinctive of the group, and now it's gone.
Really good photos by Roger Deschner!
One of the oldest, most significant, and unique bascule bridges in Chicago is to be demolished this summer! As always, I have full details over at HistoricBridges.org http://www.historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowse...