CHICAGO (CBS) — A crack in the beams supporting the northbound Lake Shore Drive bridge prompted authorities to close the span over the Chicago River for about 24 hours last week. CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory looked into how the road reopened so quickly, and what work still must be done.
Sean Lewis, a project manager for F.H. Paschen, rushed to Lake Shore Drive and Randolph with his team on Feb. 11, after a city worker spotted a crack in the steel support beams of the northbound bridge over the Chicago River.
“We knew the structure was unstable at that point, we knew the road needed to be shut down, and we knew we needed to act quickly,” he said. “This was a level 10 emergency.”
Crews didn’t have to cut through red tape to get right to work. F.H. Paschen and its affiliates have held more than $1.5 billion worth of contracts with the city over the years.
Within 26 hours of shutting down the bridge, crews installed huge shoring towers to support the problem spot, and reopened the road.
Similar equipment already was in place in at least four other areas under the road, but Lewis said he couldn’t comment on whether there are more problems under Lake Shore Drive.
So CBS 2 returned another day with an outside expert, civil engineering professor Didem Ozevin, who said the extra gear was very purposefully set up at problematic expansion joints.
“Probably they noticed a problem on those five expansion joints, and so they took the stress from those joints,” he said.
Based on a quick assessment of the bridge, Ozevin said she saw a lot of corrosion on the surface of the bridge.
“In order to do an actual inspection, they need to remove all the corrosion product on the surface,” she said.
That means crews would have to scrape away any corrosion on the bridge, to find out if there are any cracks that aren’t visible on the surface.
Ozevin said she’s also concerned about debris falling from Lake Shore Drive, pointing out steel bars exposed from eroding concrete.
The Chicago Department of Transportation said it found corrosion on the bridge, but no additional cracks.
Lewis said he takes orders from CDOT when it comes to repair work on the bridge, calling some of last week’s work “precautionary.”
“The city’s going to continue investigating those to determine what, if any, repairs are needed,” he said.
Regarding the necessary permanent repairs, the city already has ordered steel, and shipments should start arriving next week.