St Charles Airline Bridge & The 78 Project

St. Charles Air Line Bridge 1500 S Lumber St

Odyssey Chicago River Experience/St Charles Airline Bridge & The 78 Project
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> The St. Charles Air Line Bridge is a Trunnion Bascule bridge built as part of the St. Charles Air Line railway construction project in 1919.

> It carries 2 tracks of the Canadian National Railway. The proposed “78” will transform the largest parcel of undeveloped land in downtown Chicago into the city's 78th  neighborhood.

> It will be a vibrant, mixed-use community that will include residences, retail, restaurants and office space. The 62-acre site is bordered by Clark St, Roosevelt, 16th St. and the Chicago River.

Commerce and Design Intersect

It was a river channel issue that prevented the St. Charles Airline Bridge from holding onto to the honor of being the longest Trunnion Bascule bridge in the world. Built in 1919, by the St. Charles Air Line Railroad, the bridge originally had a span of 260 feet. But it was shortened to 220 feet during a relocation as a result of the river channel being straightened.

Distinction Isn't Everything

Leonard O. Hopkins, the bridge's designer, created such a work of engineering beauty that it now qualifies for landmark status. But it is still in danger of demolition due to continuous growth and expansion in the area.

“Ask of the steel, each strut and wire, … What gave it force and power.” Joseph Strauss, builder of the Golden Gate Bridge

The "78" Development

The largest stretch of undeveloped land in Chicago is the 62-acre patch bordered by Roosevelt, Clark, 16th and the Chicago River. The proposed "78" development project plans to turn the area into Chicago's 78th neighborhood, complete with residential, retail, cultural, culinary, and office spaces. Architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merril will supply designs for the project. They have plans to move the metra rail away from Clark and add a new Red Line CTA stop in order to reanimate the area. Much of the land will be put to use as green space and River Walk. A 7-acre park will trace the original curves of the Chicago River, which was straightened in 1926. The River is a main source of inspiration for the design of the 78, and a few proposals have open threads cutting through buildings to bring people to the waterfront. Many of the buildings along the waterfront are designed with fewer stories for optimal views of the water, and the Water Taxi plans to add a stop near the area.

Cover image credit: Jaysin Trevino, CC BY 2.0, no changes made.

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St Charles Airline Bridge & The 78 Project

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