N. Columbus Drive
William P. Fahey Bridge

Historical Summary

Getting ready to raise the bridge

The North Columbus Drive Bridge is the “youngest” river crossing of the eighteen bridges. This is the first and only bridge built at this location. It is unique in two respects. It is the first bridge in the group to use box girders to span the river instead of trusses. It is also the first to have its trunnions set back from the river to allow pedestrians to walk under it at river level.

From the river level you can examine the underside of the bridge deck and gain a unique perspective of the bridge. On the southeast side, you will see the single bridge tender house and the bridge plaques. The bridge tender house reflects the modern design with rectangular cross section and angular lines. This bridge was granted an award by the AISC when it was built.

The construction of this bridge generated some controversy at the time it was built. The Greater North Michigan Avenue Association opposed the bridge on grounds that the additional traffic crossing over this bridge would cause massive traffic congestion problems between Lake Michigan and North Michigan Avenue.

The bridge foes lost their battle and the bridge was opened to much fanfare on October 31, 1982. By April 15, 1983 the bridge was closed because the gears used to raise the bridge leaves were either cracked or broken. It took another seven months to repair the problem and open the bridge for good in October of 1983.

Mayor Jane Byrne dedicated this bridge to the memory and service of William P. Fahey, a Chicago Police officer killed in the line of duty in 1982.