Chicago’s Wabash Avenue Bridge Turns 85

Wabash Avenue Bridge raised for a spring boat run. (Photo: Chicago Loop Bridges) 

This Sunday will mark 85 years of service for Chicago’s Wabash Avenue Bridge. Opened to traffic on December 20, 1930, this double-leaf bascule bridge was named the “Most Beautiful” steel bridge by AISC that same year.

The Wabash Bridge is the first of four Chicago River bridges to receive an award in AISC’s Prize Bridge Competition, which began in 1928 and is currently held every other by AISC’s bridge division, the National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA). In awarding the prize to the bridge, the jury of architects and engineers recognized its rail-height trusses and observed the bridge as “a most pleasing solution of a most difficult bridge design problem.” AISC’s plaque honoring the bridge was unveiled in 1931.

The bridge connects north and south Wabash Avenue, which meet on a diagonal line across the Chicago River. At the time the bridge was built, shipping interests pressured the permitting agency to maintain a wide channel at this location. As a result, this bridge has the longest clear span of any of the river bridges (230 ft).

For more about the bridge and all 18 of Chicago’s downtown “Loop” bridges (which are all steel!), visit the Chicago Loop Bridges website at