November 21, 2013

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Reopens Historic Wells Street Bridge to Traffic

Key Project in Mayor’s Building a New Chicago Infrastructure Investment Program

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein and other elected officials in the opening the newly reconstructed Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River today, marking the end of a one-year project that replaced the historic structure while maintaining active train and maritime service. 

“This critical reconstruction of an important piece of our historic infrastructure was the result of strong coordination between agencies.  This bridge will serve the next generation of residents and our commuters will be able to expect outstanding service as they travel to and from work,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  “I thank Chicagoans for their patience during the construction on this project and congratulate the construction crews for a job well done on this feat of engineering,”

"For decades, the Wells Street Bridge has served as a critical part of Chicago's transportation infrastructure,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “This project created jobs, improved safety and brought a historic bridge into the 21st century.”

The complex project included replacing the trusses and all of the steel framing for the lower level road and upper level railway structures.  The mechanical and electrical components were also replaced, and the bridge’s historic elements, railings, bridge houses and major structural components were reconstructed to preserve the 1920s look of the bridge. 


“This project fully restored the historic Wells Street Bridge, which had outlived its useful life and was 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. With this restoration, this beautiful bridge will continue to serve Chicagoans for many more decades.”

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) service into the Loop had been briefly interrupted for two nine-day periods this spring while the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) construction crews dismantled and replaced the two movable leaves on the bridge with new pre-fabricated sections, which were assembled off-site and floated up the river on a barge. 

At the same time, the CTA rebuilt the Loop ‘L’ junction at Lake and Wells Streets, known as Tower 18, and performed additional track replacement at the curve over Hubbard Street between Wells and Franklin Street.  Combining their work saved CDOT and CTA a total of $500,000 in construction coordination costs.

The $50 million Wells Bridge project was funded through a combination of state and federal transportation improvement funds. 

“If you’re a Chicagoan travelling downtown by train, car, bike or on foot, chances are you’ve passed over the historic Wells Street Bridge,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. “Thanks to this project, Chicagoans will enjoy full use of the bridge for many years to come.  Building a 21st century infrastructure is one of the best investments our government can make, which is why the federal government contributed $40 million in support of this project.  I applaud Mayor Emanuel for his continued focus on modernizing Chicago’s transportation systems.”

"I applaud Mayor Emanuel, Commissioner Klein and President Claypool for continuing to improve transportation for Chicago residents,” said Illinois Representative Danny Davis.  “The Wells Street Bridge has been in operation for over 90 years and these improvements will ensure decades more. With its full reopening, residents will now be able to drive and walk on the bridge; once again appreciating its value."

“I applaud Chicago on quickly replacing the Wells Street Bridge, a vital link that will serve Chicago area businesses and families today and well into the future,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The Obama Administration is committed to transportation investments like the Wells Street Bridge that will help pedestrians, drivers and commuters get to where they’re going more efficiently and safely.”

Since Mayor Emanuel took office in May 2011, CDOT has either commenced or completed nearly $300 million worth of city, state and federally funded bridge construction projects:

  • Wells Street Bridge: $50 million (October 2012 - November 2013)
  • Kedzie Bridge over the Ship & Sanitary Canal: $5 million (April 2013 - November 2013)
  • Fullerton Bridge over the Lincoln Park Lagoon: $12 million (February 2012 - December 2012)
  • 130th & Torrence Intersection Reconstruction: $142 million (May 2011 - May 2015)
  • Kedzie Bridges over Marquette Park Lagoons: $6 million (March 2012 - November 2012)
  • Halsted Tied-arch Bridge at Division: $18 million (October 2010 - May 2011)
  • Halsted at Chicago: $7 million (January 2012 - May 2012)
  • Torrence Lift Bridge: $30 million (December 2011 - December 2012)
  • 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge: $22 million (construction starting Spring 2014)
  • Lake Shore Drive Ramp at Michigan Avenue: $2 million (October 2012 - November 2012)


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