2 votes

Wells Street Bridge


West Elevation

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2010


BH Photo #165331

Street Views 


Video Illustration of the Wells Street Bridge Reconstruction

The Chicago Department of Transportation is rebuilding the 90-year-old Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River. This video is an illustration of the work that will be performed in early March 2013 to replace a large section of the south leaf of the movable bridge.

City of Chicago video posted to BridgeHunter by Roger Deschner

Play video on YouTube

Wells St Bridge Reconstruction

CDOT is rebuilding the historic Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River. This video highlights the complicated engineering and construction work to replace the bridge sections that span over the water.

For more info visit cityofchicago.org/cdot

City of Chicago video posted to BridgeHunter by Roger Deschner

Play video on YouTube

Wells Street Bridge Movie

Contractor's video showing construction of new south leaf at Bubbly Creek, floating it upstream to Wells Street, and the process of installing it to replace the old span. Nice shots of other bridges being raised to allow the barge carrying the new span to pass.

2 in 1 Contractors video posted to BridgeHunter by Roger Deschner

Play video on YouTube


Double deck double leaf bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River carries Chicago Transit Authority Brown and Purple Line 'L' trains on its upper deck, and cars and pedestrians on its lower deck. Fixed warren pony truss approach span carries trains over the intersection of Wacker Drive and Wells Street at the bridge's south end.

The bridge was originally built in the upright position, leaving the previous swing bridge in service during construction. (See photo #23) Remarkably, when eventually lowered, everything fit.

This bridge underwent major rehabilitation in 2013, involving the replacement of the outer sections of each leaf. The new replacement sections were carefully designed to be nearly identical in appearance to the originals, with identically-shaped gusset plates, even using built-up lattice members to match the originals. The videos here show the rehabilitation process in great detail. The entire project was guided by the necessity of maintaining CTA 'L' traffic with minimum disruption, while allowing the bridge to be raised to allow river traffic to pass during construction, and still preserving the historic integrity of this crucial piece of infrastructure.


Double-leaf bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on N. Wells Street and CTA 'L' in Chicago
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois
Built 1922, rehabilitated 2013
- Fitzsimons & Connell Dredge & Dock Co. of Chicago, Illinois
- Fort Pitt Bridge Works of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Ketler-Elliot Erection Co. of Chicago, Illinois
- Walsh Construction Co. of Chicago, Illinois (2013 reconstruction)
- Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)
- Rapid Transit
Double-deck warren pony truss bascule bridge, with one fixed warren pony truss approach span (no verticals) at south end to carry trains over Wacker Drive
Length of largest span: 268.0 ft.
Total length: 345.0 ft.
Deck width: 38.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 12.4 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.88806, -87.63361   (decimal degrees)
41°53'17" N, 87°38'01" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/447433/4637541 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Chicago Loop
Average daily traffic (as of 2014)
Inventory numbers
IL 016-6054 (Illinois bridge number)
BH 15176 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of October 2017)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 63 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • May 7, 2022: Updated by Roger Deschner: Replaced obsolete previous video with a new working copy
  • March 28, 2022: New photo from Drew a. Walters
  • March 27, 2022: New photo from Drew a. Walters
  • October 3, 2020: New photo from Tyler
  • February 3, 2016: New photos from Royce and Bobette Haley
  • December 16, 2015: New Street View added by Douglas Butler
  • July 14, 2015: New photos from John Marvig
  • May 24, 2014: New photo from Roger Deschner
  • January 10, 2014: Updated by Roger Deschner: Bridge rehabilitation is complete. Open to all traffic.
  • October 8, 2013: New Street View added by J.P.
  • April 7, 2013: Updated by Roger Deschner: Extensive revision reflecting current rehabilitation project
  • September 30, 2012: New photos from Steve Conro
  • May 14, 2010: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • March 4, 2010: Updated by Robert Stephenson: Bridge design

Related Bridges 


  • HAER IL-52 - Chicago River Bascule Bridge, Wells Street, Spanning South Branch Chicago River at North Wells Street, Chicago, Cook County, IL
  • James Baughn - webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com
  • Robert Stephenson - seinfeld99 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • Mike Roegner
  • Steve Conro - sconro [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Roger Deschner - rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth
  • Douglas Butler
  • J.P. - wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • John Marvig - marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Royce and Bobette Haley - roycehaley111 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Tyler
  • Drew a. Walters


Wells Street Bridge
Posted May 6, 2013, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

Replacement of the outer section of the north leaf was completed on time this morning, and CTA trains resumed using its upper deck for this morning's rush hour. The Brown and Purple Line 'L' trains carry an estimated 77,000 passengers daily over this bridge. The lower deck remains under construction, and will be closed to cars and pedestrians until November.

Chicago Tribune article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-well-s...

Chicago Tribune photo gallery. Last photo is especially interesting, from 1921: http://galleries.apps.chicagotribune.com/chi-130228-wells-st...

Wells Street Bridge
Posted April 25, 2013, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

The Wells Street Bridge will be closed to CTA rail traffic again for 10 days, starting after the evening rush hour on April 26, 2013, for replacement of the outer half of the north leaf with a fairly exact replica that was prefabricated off site at Bubbly Creek and floated here on a barge. Chicago Transit Authority web site: http://www.transitchicago.com/wellsbridge/

The outer half of the south leaf was already replaced several weeks ago.

And don't worry, Jack Wooten, this is a good historically sensitive rehab/restoration, not a demolition. When done, the only way you will be able to tell which are the new or old parts of the truss structure will be the use of bolts on the new sections instead of rivets. They're intending it to last another 90 years. Look at the videos and photos.

Any bridge fans who can make it to the Chicago Loop April 27-May 5 should come watch, and photograph, this remarkable project underway. The best vantage points will be along West Wacker Drive. Work will be underway 24 hours/day on a precise schedule.

Wells Street Bridge
Posted March 18, 2013, by Jack Wooten (jackwooten37 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I do not know your concerns on this bridge, but I truly feel someone some wherE suggested all truss bridges need to be destroyed, but if i can any help on finding a way to save the bridge I will help get you in contact with various contacts for support, does your area have a topic or discussion venue, any agency provide form for contact. just a couple of suggestion which I hope will help. I HAVE CONTACTED PRESERVATIONS SITES THEY MAY BE ABLE TO HELP, JUST DO NOT GIVE UP, I HAVE NOT GIVEN UP ON MARION MEMORIAL AT HALETOWN TN YET EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE THIS BRIDGE READY TO HIT THE TN RIVER, HOPE THIS HELPS YOU MAYBE YOU ARE NOT AS BEHIND AS ME GOOD LUCK AND HERE IS HOPING YOU CAN SAVE THIS


YOUR ENDEVOR. jackwooten 37@yahoo.com

Wells Street Bridge
Posted March 3, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

FYI, I believe what the poster below refers to is only a particular stage in the heavy rehabilitation of this bridge. The overall project is longer in duration. My records indicate that expected completion for the entire project is November 2013.

Wells Street Bridge
Posted March 3, 2013, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

The historic Wells Street Bridge is currently closed for one week for rehabilitation. CDOT and CTA hope to correct the "Serious" superstructure condition noted in the most recent inspection.

The timeline for this project is being kept as short as possible, because of the disruption to Downtown traffic and to the two extremely busy CTA "L" rail lines that run on the upper deck of the bridge. They also want to complete this project before the annual springtime migration of sailboats down the river into Lake Michigan, which will require the bridges to be lifted. While the bridge is closed, "L" passengers are being carried around it on shuttle buses and on (already crowded) Red Line trains. It is a major disruption, affecting the entire North Side of Chicago, because regardless of its historic quality, this bridge is a crucial link whose maintenance is vital.

Wells Street Bridge
Posted May 18, 2010, by Mike Roegner (roegner [at] soltec [dot] net)

Here's a photo from the CTA collection of the Wells street bridge being built. The trains are passing on the original swing bridge. The bascule bridge was built in the upright position straddling the swing bridge, and then lowered after the swing bridge was dismantled. And of course, upright for the bascule bridge doesn't mean 90 degrees upright. That a bridge could be built in that position and have everything fit once it's lowered I think is pretty amazing. The Lake Street bridge was built the same way.

Webmaster's note: The photo that was here has been incorporated into the main site.

Wells Street Bridge
Posted September 8, 2007, by Tom Staley (thomass [at] nc [dot] rr [dot] com)

Photo taken Sept. 7, 2007