It is boating season in Chicago. The City’s iconic bridge lifts began April 17th and are scheduled to run through June 30th.
Each spring, the bridges are lifted as the boats travel from the dry dock on the south side of the City, to the north where the river splits, turning east to allow the sailboats and large cabin cruisers to get to Lake Michigan for summer. The process is reversed in the fall when the boats make their way back to the dry docks for winter.
This springtime tradition started in the 1800s, when Chicago became a busy port on the Mississippi River. The bridges were originally floating swing bridges but have since evolved after several modifications to the designs used today. The Pennsylvania Railway bridge at Canal Street, however, is over 100 years old and is the only bridge that is still lifted vertically.
For each run, 27 bridges will be lifted, from South Ashland Avenue to Lake Shore Drive. The bridge lifts are scheduled to take place every Saturday at starting at 8 AM, and every Wednesday starting at 9:30 AM except for May 29, 2021. From the time the first bridge is lifted, the journey typically takes 4 hours for the boats to reach the lake. Legally the boats have always had the right of way over motor vehicles and pedestrians.
According to the Sun Times, “Some CTA trains that use bridges will be affected. Brown Line trains use the Wells Street bridge; Green and Pink Line trains use the Lake Street bridge. Passengers on those routes should expect delays of five to 10 minutes during bridge lifts.”
While the lifts can be a nuisance for both CTA passengers and motorists, those not in a rush often make a day of viewing the lifts. Residents and tourists alike participate in the famous “bridge run,” where they follow the sequential lifts by car or foot. It is a great sight to see.
For more detailed information, read the Chicago Department of Transportation’s press release.
Happy boating season, Chicago!