Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Chicago River Bypass Channel around Metropolitan's Bridge


MWRD posted
Workers pose on a dipper dredge bucket on October 16, 1899, during construction of a bypass channel on the South Branch of the Chicago River between Van Buren St. and Adams St. In order to ensure adequate flow for the soon-to-open Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the Sanitary District was dredging the river to make it deeper and replacing some bridges to make it wider. The bypass channel was necessary in areas where bridge replacement wasn’t possible.
I don't think the guys with a coat and tie do much working.

The rolling bridge in the background was the Metropolitan L Bridge that was the first rolling bridge built in 1895. The swing bridge behind the rolling bridge would be the Jackson Boulevard Bridge.

Martin Sorenson posted
Chicago circa 1907. "Jack-Knife Bridge, Chicago River." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative by Hans Behm, Detroit Publishing Company.
This would be looking north from Van Buren Street. Underneath the L Bridge, we can see that Jackson was still a swing bridge. Since a boat can be only as wide as one side of the swing bridge, they saved money by building the rolling bridge over just the east channel. So the river is less than half its normal width and would have an excessive current with the increased flow desired to flush sewage down the new Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CS&SC). I added a red line below to show where I think they dug the new channel west of the west pier of the L Bridge and the center pivot pier of the swing bridge.

Above picture plus Paint
In this 1950s view we can see the bypass channel behind the green tree in the lower-left corner.

Darla Zailskas posted
Note that by 1950 the Jackson Bridge has been replaced by a trunnion bascule bridge. So the "L" Bridge now significantly reduces the new width of the navigational channel. That would explain why it was quickly removed after the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interuban stopped passenger service in 1957 and the Douglas subway was built.

In this 1938 aerial, the shadow of the post office obscures the layout of the river.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP

The Pennsy tracks using the original shoreline explains why only the east side of Jackson Boulevard Bridge was used. This would be a choke point on the river for navigation. Boats travelling in both directions would have to share the single channel.
MWRD posted
Bob Lalich I'm having difficulty imagining a bypass channel with a roof. Part of the river flows through a tunnel between Van Buren and Adams?
Dennis DeBruler Yes. Or more accurately, did flow. The building of the current Union Station and/or the straightening of the river completely changed the banks of the river in this area.The Bypass Channel went under the Pennsy tracks and part of their freight house. On Page 229 of Richard Lanyon's "Building the Canal to Save Chicago" book as part of the description of the substructure contract: "dismantling a portion of a freight house and re-erecting the freight house upon completion of the Bypass Channel; truncating the corner of an office building and rebuilding the exterior and interior walls; and restoration of all roadway paving." On Page 230 as part of the description of the superstructure contract: "Material specifications adopted from the Pennsylvania Company were included for the structural steel and other metals used." All 11 photographs at the end of Chapter 9, Chicago River Improvement, show the construction of the Bypass Channel. The photographs indicate that all of the tracks between the freight house and the river, as well as part of the freight house itself, were held up by steel beams.
Dennis DeBruler I just discovered the book's photos are online: https://www.everythinggoesmedia.com/building-canal-photos...

Bob Lalich Thanks Dennis! I never noticed this before but it is apparent now looking at maps of the area in that time frame. I have that book on my wish list.

David Daruszka commented on MWRD's posting
That's Old Union Station's roof in the background.
Dennis DeBruler You saved me the effort of verifying that roof line was for the Old Union Station,

MWRD posted
Construction of a bypass channel on the South Branch of the Chicago River between Van Buren St. and Adams St. on November 10, 1899. In order to increase the capacity of the Chicago River to convey the required flow for the soon-to-open Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the bypass channel was built and portions of the river were widened, straightened and/or deepened.

EveryThingGoesMedia
WTTW
[The roof of the original Union Station is peaking over the Pennsy freight house. It looks like they are building the "ceiling" of the bypass tunnel in the right foreground.]

Pavel Bv posted
Former Jackson Street Swing Bridge, 1892. “Union Depot” rail yard on the front left.

Dennis DeBruler shared
Some of us have discussed the bypass channel that MWRD had to dig under Pennsy's freighthouse and tracks to increase the flow of the Chicago River when they reversed the flow: https://www.facebook.com/MetropolitanWaterReclamationDistrict/posts/1938687686222443
This view provides a good perspective of why that bypass was needed. I'm still trying to figure out the history of the dredging of the Chicago River and its branches. But this photo shows that Pennsy's Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago railroad built here before the river was dredged to its current width. We can see the PFT&C freight house just north of the west end of the bridge. (The hipped roof building in the background was the original Union Station.) Most of the river is wide enough that both sides of the swing bridges can be used. But here the Pennsy beat them to the land on the west side of the river and only the east side of the bridge is usable by ships. The MWRD bypass channel was a tunnel under the west span so that the river's flow would not be pinched down to just one side of the bridge.
MWRD posted
A view from the Jackson St. bridge in Chicago looking southwest on April 27, 1904, at 9:55 a.m. This area was originally property of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and was acquired by the Sanitary District (now MWRD) in order to deepen and widen the South Branch of the Chicago River.

Dennis DeBruler posted an ECC link
The north end of Pennsy's freight house, the Old Union Station in the background and Adams Street Bridge on the right. And people swimming in the river in an annual celebration of how clean it has become since it was reversed in 1900 and of the reduction of commercial traffic. (Industry and the big boats were moving to Calumet River.)

Chicago had already reversed the flow of the river in 1871 when it deepened the Indiana & Michigan Canal to its original design of a deep cut. But that canal was too small to remove the wastes from the river.

The towns downstream did not suffer as they feared when the CS&SC canal opened and a significant flow of water went down the Des Plaines and Illinois Rivers. Even St. Louis feared the impact of receiving Chicago's waste. Furthermore, Chicago pioneered the development of water treatment plants. [ChicagoTribune]

Other towns along the Great Lakes in the USA and Canada felt that Chicago was robbing the lakes of water. So in 1967 the flow was restricted to 3200 cubic feet per second. This is why there are now locks at the mouth of the river. [Wikipedia]. A  few decades later, the height of Lake Michigan was becoming very high. The other towns asked Chicago to open up their locks and allow a maximum flow down the river and canal. But Chicago refused because the higher currents would impact the barge traffic and because scientists were learning that the river's flow has very little impact on the Great Lakes' water level compared to the amount of precipitation in the watershed of the lakes.


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