The place where Michigan Avenue crosses the Chicago River is one of the most iconic urban spaces in the world – The Michigan Avenue Bridge or The Dusable Bridge (officially renamed in October 2010, to honor Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable who was the first non-native settler in Chicago)
Connecting the downtown Loop to the Magnificent Mile, this is essentially the “Main Street Bridge” of Chicago, since it carries a busy roadway including as many as 30,000 pedestrians daily, and has been decorated flying various flags on the bridge to give it the feel of a gateway bridge.
Like most bridges over the Chicago River, the DuSable Bridge is movable, which allows boats to pass underneath. The bridge is a Trunnion bascule bridges, a distinctive features of Chicago’s infrastructure. They’re movable bridges with counterweights that lift by rotating around large, fixed axles called trunnions. The enormous underground counterweights balance the bridge’s leaves and allow relatively small motors to open and close the bridge. DuSable’s two double-deck leaves carry both Michigan Avenue and a lower-level service road over the river, allowing for two levels of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. When the bridge was first constructed, it was said to be the only double-deck bridge built with highways on both levels.
One of the more dramatic events at the bridge was a car chase in 1922. A safe cracker named Vincent “Skimmer” Drucci was being pursued by detectives Tuohy and Klatzco. The chase eventually came to the north approach of the bridge which was beginning to open for a passing steamer. Drucci drove through the gates and was able to jump the four foot gap between the bridge leaves and make it safely to the south side of the river only to get caught in traffic. Touy and Klatzco followed and made the dramatic jump as well capturing Drucci as he tried to flee on foot.
At one time, the bridge opened thousands of times per year. Now, to minimize disruptions to traffic on the Magnificent Mile, it only opens on a limited seasonal schedule.