Roosevelt Road was originally known as 12th Street and this associated bascule bridge and approach system were called the 12th Street Viaduct. This bridge is an example of a Chicago Pratt truss bascule bridge that is a true deck truss, where the truss does not partially extend above the deck and is also not a double-deck truss. There are only a few bridges of this type in Chicago, and the Roosevelt Road is perhaps most similar to the Ohio Street Bridge. Perhaps the most striking feature of the bridge is the two beautiful circular-shaped bridgetender buildings that feature decorative sculptures set into the buildings. These round buildings are unlike bridgetender buildings found elsewhere in Chicago, and they are very pleasing aesthetically. Large plaques mounted on the buildings are themselves curved so as to conform to the round shape of the buildings. The buildings appear to be in excellent, unaltered condition.
A very long (over 1000 feet total) length of viaduct provides an approach to the bridge. The viaduct approach structures are not considered part of the historic bridge as they appear to have been extensively altered and/or reconstructed.
This bridge was built at the same time that the South Branch of the Chicago River was being realigned to the west. Roosevelt Road is near the northern end of where the realignment project took place. The former swing bridge at this location was located just east of where the current bascule bridge is located. The historic construction photo to the right shows both the swing bridge crossing the old South Branch channel and the nearly completed bascule bridge crossing the new South Branch channel. The bascule bridge was built before the new alignment of the river was dug. Because of this fact as well as the desire to maintain traffic on the road during construction, the construction of this bridge took on an unusual appearance. The bridge was built in the raised position so as not to block the old roadway. One of the trusses can be seen in the historical photo to the left poking right up through the middle of the old roadway. Because the new alignment of the river had not been dug, it also would have looked like this was a bridge being built over nothing, since there would have been dry land under the bridge.
Given the large and complex nature of this bridge project, substantial preliminary studies were conducted prior to building the bridge. The 1914 Annual Report of the Department of Public Works included a discussion of some of the planning efforts. Several movable bridge types were considered. A city-designed vertical lift bridge was given serious consideration, with the city going as far as preparing detailed plans. Unsurprisingly, alternative designs of trunnion bascule bridges were also considered. Also of note, the city gave considerations for a plan submitted by the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company for a "direct lift" bascule bridge, an unusual type of vertical lift bridge designed by famous engineer Joseph Strauss. An example can be found in British Columbia.
Hugh E. Young was Chief Engineer for the Chicago Plan Commission when this bridge was built. Hugh E. Young also served as Engineer of Bridge for the city in previous years. Click his photograph shown to view a larger image that includes a short biography.
Today, the bridge carries the very busy Roosevelt Road, with an Average Daily Traffic of 37,000. The Roosevelt Road Bridge's truss superstructure has been extensively built-up and strengthened during rehabilitation, which occurred in 1994. Numerous rivets have been replaced with bolts on the truss. These alterations have diminished the historic integrity of the truss, however the bridge does score very high structural evaluation ratings on the National Bridge Inventory suggesting that these alterations did extend the life of the bridge considerably. As of 2010 there is some rust forming on the truss however. If Chicago DOT continues its track record, it is likely the bridge will be repainted in the maroon paint color the city uses on all of its most recent bridge repainting projects.
The 1930 Annual Report of the Public Works Department stated a number of facts for the bridge. 620,000 pounds of reinforcing steel were placed in the bridge's substructure. The total weight of steel for the bridge was 1,950 tons. Each leaf, including counterweight was 1,560 tons. Each leaf was mounted on two trunnions, each with a 24 inch diameter and each carrying 780 tons. The total weight of machinery was 212 tons. The bridge was operated with two 75 H.P. electric motors. It was mentioned that the original railings were an aluminum alloy. Fitzsimons & Connell Dredge & Dock Company constructed the eastern substructure, while M. E. White Company did the western substructure. Ketler-Elliott Company constructed the superstructure. Norwood-Noonan Company installed electrical equipment. The bridge tender houses were built by the C. E. Carson Company. William J. Gormley Company installed plumbing.
Photo Credit: Patrick Hynes
Above: This is the swing bridge that preceded the existing bascule bridge. It was built in 1886 by the Chicago Forge and Bolt Company and was a steel swing bridge. The swing bridge was 220 feet long and 59 feet wide. It was powered by steam. This swing bridge was preceeded by the first documented bridge at this location, a hand-turned, combination wood/iron swing bridge built by Fox and Howard in 1868.
ROOSEVELT ROAD BRIDGE
WM HALE THOMPSON
RICHARD W. WOLFE
CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION
FITZSIMONS & CONNELL DREDGE & DOCK CO.
NORWOOD - NOONAN CO
C. E. CARSON CO.
River Straightening Plaque
WM HALE THOMPSON
RICHARD W. WOLFE
EDWARD F. MOORE
COMMITTEE ON RAILWAY TERMINALS
CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION
HUGH E. YOUNG, CHIEF ENGINEER
GREAT LAKES DREDGE & DOCK CO.
Bridge Rehabilitation Plaque
BASCULE BRIDGE RESTORATION
CITY OF CHICAGO
RICHARD M. DALEY, MAYOR
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