Chicago has countless railroad overpasses (grade separations), and while a large percentage of them are old, there are a select few that stand out among the group, and this bridge is one of them to be sure. This impressive bridge features large, built-up, curved steel stringers that appear to be rigidly connected to a concrete-encased steel substructure forming a rigid-frame design superstructure (although this could not be confirmed since the bridge is not shown in the National Bridge Inventory), and presuming the bridge is a steel rigid-frame design, this alone is very noteworthy. However, these details are hidden behind a wall of beautifully designed concrete architecture which greatly adds to the significance of the bridge. From the railings, to the abutments, this bridge has been designed to look nice. The names Cermak Road, New York Central, and Rock Island Lines are inset into the concrete to give the bridge and location identity. The designs on the railings, facade, and abutments are all designed to give the bridge the abstract/symbolic appearance of wings and this also gives the bridge an otherwise sleek and streamlined appearance.
It appears the designers of this bridge sought to create a grade separation that went beyond the typical railroad design which often was a simple plate girder or stringer. The bridge suggests the area and road was an important or affluent one when this bridge was built. Today the bridge carries Metra (Rock Island District) trains. This bridge is important to preserve and retain because it continues to serve its original secondary purpose of adding beauty and identity to its location. Located near Chinatown, the bridge is certainly in a popular Chicago destination, and the bridge contributes to the aesthetics of the area, yet at the same time, does not clash with the oriental atmosphere of the main area Chinatown, which is nearby this bridge.
As if the beautiful historic bridge isn't cause enough to stop and enjoy the beautiful of the bridge, remember that this bridge is right next to one of Chicago's many dreaded photo-enforced stoplight intersections. An easy way to avoid this rear-end accident causing moneymaker is to use the many inexpensive and efficient mass transit options afforded by CTA and the area's commuter rail lines. Most of the bridges in the area can be accessed with these facilities, and it will save you the stress of parking and getting a red light ticket in the mail, and will support the many historic stations and elevated railroad lines that continue to be used in Chicago. In the case of this particular bridge, your CTA fare at the parallel Red Line Cermak/Chinatown station will also give you access to the very nice elevated angles of this bridge viewable from the Red Line Station platform.
Complete Bridge List
Chicago and Cook County are home to one of the largest collections of historic bridges in the country, and no other city in the world has more movable bridges. HistoricBridges.org is proud to offer the most extensive coverage of historic Chicago bridges on the Internet.
General Chicago / Cook County Bridge Resources
Chicago's Bridges - By Nathan Holth, author of HistoricBridges.org, this book provides a discussion of the history of Chicago's movable bridges, and includes a virtual tour discussing all movable bridges remaining in Chicago today. Despite this broad coverage, the book is presented in a compact format that is easy to take with you and carry around for reference on a visit to Chicago. The book includes dozens of full color photos. Only $9.95 U.S! ($11.95 Canadian). Order Now Direct From The Publisher! or order on Amazon.
Chicago River Bridges - By Patrick T. McBriarty, this is a great companion to Holth's book shown above. This much larger book offers an extremely in-depth exploration of Chicago's movable highway bridges, including many crossings that have not existed for many years. Order Now Direct From The Publisher! or order on Amazon.
Chicago Loop Bridges - Chicago Loop Bridges is another website on the Internet that is a great companion to the HistoricBridges.org coverage of the 18 movable bridges within the Chicago Loop. This website includes additional information such as connections to popular culture, overview discussions and essays about Chicago's movable bridges, additional videos, and current news and events relating to the bridges.
Additional Online Articles and Resources - This page is a large gathering of interesting articles and resources that HistoricBridges.org has uncovered during research, but which were not specific to a particular bridge listing.
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