Up Go The Bridges, Stop Go The Cars
Every spring and fall in Chicago, the city schedules days and times when bridges over the Chicago River will be raised to allow sail boats with masts too high to go under city bridges, to move into and from Lake Michigan.
Obviously, spring sees local boat captains bringing their ships out of dry dock and back into the lake for the warm weather boating season. Of course, in the fall, the boats depart the lake in advance of the icy waters of winter.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, is the first weekday bridge raising and will begin at 9:30 AM and impacting downtown traffic from 11:00 to 12:30.
Bridges are raised to accommodate sailboats on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from April 17th through June 30th.
According to CDOT spokesperson Brian Steele, all bridges along the both branches of the Chicago river will be raised sequentially from south to north starting on the South branch at Ashland Ave. at 9:30 AM.
Three teams of bridgetenders “leapfrog” each other between bridges along the river, in order to keep the process running as fast and smoothly as possible according to Steele.
Drivers should expect to wait approximately 8-12 minutes while the bridge is up.
So if you’re in a hurry to get downtown during this time frame, leave a little earlier than normal on Wednesdays and Saturdays or just build in some extra drive time just in case.
Expect sail boats to reach downtown to effect bridges and tie up traffic between 11 AM and 12:30 PM. The Lake Shore Drive bridge is the last bridge to be raised around that 12:30 ending time.
“Since it’s impossible to know when a given bridge will lift, motorists should be patient if they have to stop for a lift,” explains Steele. “CDOT always attempts to complete the lifts as quickly as possible. And earlier in the boating season there are typically fewer boats, which means the lifts are shorter.”
While the spring bridge lift ends Wednesday, June 30th, the entire process in reverse starts up again from September through November.
Here’s CDOT’s bridge lift schedule for the spring.