Chicago River Bridges
Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1927
THE OUTER DRIVE BRIDGE.
The Chicago Plan commission has recommended the construction of the outer drive bridge at the mouth of the river. The commission proposes extending the present drive in Grant park straight north, on a viaduct over the Illinois Central tracks, from Randolph street to the river bank. There the road would turn east, as an extension of Wacker drive, to the lake. The drive would swing north again over the proposed bridge and join the Lake Shore drive just south of the Furniture mart.
This plan has the authority of the commission behind it. It will require no consents from property owners which cannot be readily obtained. Accordingly, it will avoid time-consuming litigation, an inevitable accompaniment to most of the rival proposals. The commission’s plan will speed the day when the Illinois Central will find it profitable to dispose of the air rights over its yards north of Randolph street, to the improvement of the city’s appearance. The esthetic value of the drive along the river and the crossing at the mouth is of itself sufficient to justify tho commission’s choice.
The plan can be made a reality within two years, according to officials of the commission, if the legislature at this session allows the Lincoln park board to borrow an additional $2,000,000 to pay its share of the total cost. The authority should be granted. The senate passed the bill yesterday; the house Is expected to act Tuesday. The money is needed to complete what is destined to the most traveled as well as the most beau- tiful of the city s boulevards. The outer drive is unique. No other city is likely to have one. No other city is so near a solution of the problem of relieving through the heart of its downtown district. The drives, north and south, are nearing completion, but without the bridge connecting them much and probably most of their usefulness is lost. The bonds are needed to bring Chicago’s most civic project to completion.
Chicago Tribune, September 27, 1927
A broad. new thoroughfare linking Michigan avenue with the Grant park outer drive appeared to be assured yesterday when it was disclosed that the city and the Ilinois Central railroad have agreed on a settlement of the East Randolph street viaduct controversy.
Oflicials on both sides, it was learned. have informally approved a revised set of plans for the project wipe out the disputed points and a conference will be held tomorrow to clear up the and urge action by- the city council. Richard Wolfe, commissioner of public works; F. L. Thompson, first vice president of the I. C., and President E. J. Kelly of the south park board will be present.
Ordinance is Amended.
The revised plans, prepared by William Artingstall, consulting city engineer, are in the form of amendments to the 1919 lake front development ordinace. If carried out they will end a long deadlock which has held up the traffic link and delayed construction of the new L C. suburban station.
“We ought to have automobiles running over the viaduct within a year and that will not be too soon,” said Mr. Artingstall yesterday. “It is badly needed as an outlet to Grant park and to relieve Michigan avenue s congestion.’
Trouble over a southward jog in the viaduct to the I. C. station, as asked by the railroad, is eliminated under the Artingstall proposal by widening the roadway of the span from 40 to 44 feet and the sidewalks from 12 to 20 feet each. Railroad patrons instead of descending a ramp to the station and climbing up again would traverse the south sidewalk and use a short flight of steps to the entrance. Thus wider traffic lanes as well as better access to the station are provided.
Route of the new outer boulevard link, as proposed by president of south park board and consulting engineers, with connections to be made with the present Michigan boulevard link and the north and south park systems. The bridges and viaducts, as well as possible shore line changes, made part of the plans are indicated in the sketch.
(December 29, 1924)
Favors New Widening Plan.
I believe that some day Randolph street may be a broad boulevard from the lake to the western city limits,” Mr. Artingstall said.
“It Is already widened to 150 feet from Desplaines street west for a considerable distance. With a wide roadway across the new viaduct to the outer drive, there would only remain the comparatively narrow street through the loop.
Beaublen court, now sloping up to Michigan avenue, becomes a stub end at Randolph street, according to Artingstall’s drawings of the new viaduct. Commissioner Wolfe has proposed that this handicap be overcome, however, by the eventual double-decking of the court north to East Wacker drive.
A second phase of the settlement agreement deals with the relocation of a proposed subway under the I. C. tracks at 18th street. The old ordi- nance amendment calls for depression of 18th, Prairie and Calumet avenues into the subway, involving property damages estimated at $700,000.
Prroposes Large Saving,
Mr. Artingstall’s plan provides that the 18th street depression start at Prairie avenue and curve about 100 yards south, going under the tracks there and saving the expense of de- pressing Prairie avenue. The east end of 18th street and north end of Calumet avenue would be vacated and a new outlet for Calumet cut west to Prairie avenue. Condemnation of this property would cost only $100,000, Mr. Artingstall said.
Several other less important diffi- culties in the old amendment are to be taken up at the conference to be held in Mir. Wolfe’s office at the city hall.
After the meeting, Mr. Wolfe expects to have the agreement put into ordinance form and presented to the council at once.
Chicago Tribune January 15, 1928
BY AL CHASE.
Rainbow bridge, a huge arched army of skyscrapers in a single row, bending in a sweeping band of color from Lake Shore drive to Randolph street, is the suggested method of linking north and south sides near the mouth of the river, made by Charles Morgan, Chicago artist and architect. The location and application of the proJect to the city s development is being made by D. H. Burnham & Co.
Would Be Full of Color.
The name of the great proposed Rainbow bridge, is given because of the sweeping bands of color suggested by Mr. Morgan which would result in a rainbow effect when seen from the lake or viewed from Michigan avenue.
The startling novelty in Mr. Morgan’s project is the utilization of the great piers as office building skyscrapers of twenty-five or more stories. Still more would be the entrance into these unique structures—from the top. The tenants would whiz over the bridge to the pier which contained their respective building, park their cars in the proposed garage in the upper floors, and drop down in an elevator to their offices.
A width of approximately 150 feet is suggested for the bridge by the architects. The grade would be about 8 per cent.
Location of proposed Rainbow bridge for the outer drive1, as suggested by D. H. Burnham & Co., would be from Lake Shore drive, crossing the river somewhere near its mouth, to Randolph street extended. Bands of colored terra cotta would give it a rainbow effect. Above is a sketch of the proposed bridge.
Offers World Feature.
“Rainbow bridge, if carried out on the scale suggested, would make one of the world’s most imposing structures,” said Herbert Burnham of D. H. Burnham & Co.
“It would give Chicago’s water front one of the most novel and interesting developments of any great metropolis,” said Mr. Morgan. “It would mean the linking the north and south side boulevard systems with a monumental rainbow hued causeway, unlike anything to be found in the world, I believe.”
The project will be submitted to James Simpson, head of the Chicago plan commission, and to the heads of the Lincoln and south park boards.
Photograph of etching made by Charles L. Morgan, showing his suggested used of Rainbow bridge piers as skyscrapers. The widest opening is over the Chicago river, with boat passing under bridge.
Outer Drive Proposed Improvements
Chicago Tribune April 28, 1929
BY OSCAR HEWITT
The last obstacle in the path of the outer boulevard link was removed yesterday. James Simpson, chairman of plan commission, reached an oral agreement with the last objector, the Container Corporation of America. The written contract is to be signed tomorrow or Tuesday.
So certain was Mr. Simpson that every kink has been ironed out that he wrote a letter to the south park commission urging them at once to award a contract for the preparation of plans and specifications for the monumental bridge across the Chicago river near its mouth. The Lincoln park commission has already awarded its contract.
Sees Ceompletion by 1931.
If the south park commission will act promptly, Mr. Simpson said, the two boards will be ready to award contracts for construction of the bridge in a minimum of four months and a maximum of six months. He believes that the improvement can be put in service by May 1, 1931.
The estimated cost of the project is $10,000,000. The Lincoln and south park commissions will divide the costs equally. All the private land involved in the improvement on tne north side of the river is owned by the Chicago Dock and Canal company. Agreements have been made with the company and with its tenants. The federal government and the city have contributed other land In the path of the boulevard. On the south side all the private land to be utilized is owned by the Illinois Central and it, too, has assented to the program.
How Drive Will Run.-
The project extends the Lake Shore drive due south from Ohio street, over the Michigan slip of the Chicago Dock and Canal company, and south to the south bank of the river. Then the drive is to turn west for 900 feet, and south again until it runs in a direct line to the center of the Field museum..
The bridge across the will be a single leaf bascule span 108 feet wide. The bridge over the river will be a two leaf type, giving a channel width of 220 feet and a clearance of 22 feet—the highest of any bridge on the river. At each end of the bridge will be a plaza about twice the size of the plazas of the Michigan boulevard bridge.
Other parts of the boulevard will be of viaduct construction similar to Wacker drive, except for an earth fill at the north and south approaches.
Wider than Michigan Link.
This boulevard link will be much more commodious than the Michigan avenue connection. The new street will be 141 feet wide for its entire length, with a roadway of a uniform width of 108 feet, even across the two bridges. These pavements will be 28 feet wider than the roadways of the Michigan avenue bridge.
The new link will not cost half as much as Wacker drive, It Is estimated. and will give considerably more road space. On the lower level Wacker drive is 135 feet wide, and on the upper 110 feet, as compared with the 140 feet of the new improvement.
In order to expedite action on the project the plan commission lent its chief engineer. Hugh E. Young, as consultant to the Lincoln park commissioners. This board had obtained a proposal of the Strauss Engineering company to design its half of the bridge.
HOW OUTER DRIVE BRIDGE WILL LOOK WHEN COMPLETED
Chicago Plan commission s sketch of new outer drive bridge and approaches, construction of which will be speeded by removal of last legal obstacle. This sketch is looking directly west from the mouth of the river, showing the bridge, the span over Ogden slip, the approach from the south and Wacker drive as it will appear when constructed to connect Michigan avenue with the outer drive.
Planners Design Bridge.
In a letter sent yesterday by Chairman Simpson to President Edward J. Kelly of the south park commission, it is stated that Mr. Young “has revised and checked the original proposal and has given considerable time, attention and effort to the type of structure required.”
In effect, the plan Commission has designed, through its engineering department, the type of bridge best suited to the amount and character of traffic expected on the outer drive.
The Lincoln park commissioners have awarded a contract to the Strauss Engineering corporation for a design of the north half of the span. The south park board has asked the plan commission s recommendation on what it should do.
It was in reply to this query that Mr. Simpson yesterday advised the south park commissioners that the plan commission urges that the design for the south half of the span also be awarded to the Strauss concern .
Removing the last obstacle to make way for the Outer Drive Bridge, circa June 11, 1931. Work was started a few days prior on June 6, 1931, and was optimistic the project would be completed in time for the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair. However, it was suspended after about eight months when the project ran out of money. On July 23, 1935, with help from the Public Works Administration, production was authorized to resumed.
Chicago Tribune October 5, 1937
Chicago Tribune October 6, 1937
BY HAL FOUST.
The blare of trumpets is ended. This morning the new outer link bridge will be performing its routine function in Chicago’s transportation system. It is no longer a monument of civic achievement, a subJect of dedicatory; it’s a public utility to serve between 68,000 and 102,000 automobile riders daily.
Tho barricades were lifted for 30,000 waiting automobiles at 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon as quickly as the parade and its pedestrian spectators could be cleared from the roadway. In the first hour 36,000 vehicles crossed the structure.
Bridge Jammed with Cars.
All through the afternoon and well into the evening the bridge and its viaduct approaches were jammed with cars. They were delayed while souvenir windshield stickers were issued on the span. No one complained; they came to see the bridge, to get the souvenir and to join the crowd. Last night the total number of cars had exceeded 100,000.
Today folks will begin putting the structure to the use for which $11,500,000 was spent to save time. Otto X. Jelinek, engineer for the Chicago park district, predicted that for the next two months the daily will average 40,000 vehicles with 68,000 riders. Thereafter, as motorists become weaned from habitual routes, the daily average will approximate 00,000 vehicles with 102,000 riders.
10 to 21 Minutes Saving.
In the drive Lbtween the north and the south sides there will be a saving of between 10 and 21 minutes, as compared with the trip over Michigan avenue. The upper level of Michigan avenue has been carrying 65,000 vehicles a day.
The loop this morning be more accessible to both the north and the south sides as a result of this improvement. The new Randolph street viaduct is an additional link between Michigan avenue and the outer drive. Furthermore, the between Michigan avenue and the outer drive will no longer include those en route between the north and south sides with no desire to visit the central business district.
Expect Congestion to Be Eased.
The congestion in Michigan avenue is expected to be cased materially. No longer compelled to carry an overload, the boulevard will be relieved of the trick stop-and-go control which compelled pedestrians to stand in the middle of the pavement in crossing at several of the intersections.
The bottle neck at Monroe street and Michigan avenue is broken. The boulevard will no longer be choked with cars from the north side wanting to turn left to reach the south side outer drive.
The outer link bridge today is part of Chicago’s automotive transporta tion system—a vital betterment at the heart of the system.
AERIAL VIEWS OF THE NEW OUTER LINK BRIDGE, OCTOBER 5, 1937
The bridge cost $11.5 million to build and when completed was the longest and widest bascule bridge in the world,
Thousands of people swarm the new Outer Drive Bridge on its opening day, Oct. 5, 1937.
Traffic moving across new bridge after it was opened.
The Speakers’ Platform at the south end of the bridge as President made address surrounded by officials and politicians.
The infamous angle turns on the Outer Drive, just south of the bridge, circa Dec. 24, 1937. Less than 72 hours after the bridge dedication on Oct. 5, 1937, two people were hurt as their car failed to make the sharp corner and crashed against the guard wall. The right-angle turn problem was not resolved until 1986.
Plan for the removal of the “S” curve on Lake Shore Drive.
1 The Outer Drive was officially named Leif Ericson Drive in 1927, but the name was seldom used. In 1946 the entire road was named Lake Shore Drive.