Sign of spring: Chicago River bridge testing begins

Another sign of spring is rising on Chicago’s skyline.

Starting Monday, the city began testing all of the bridges that cross the Chicago River. It is in preparation for boating season just around the corner.

"This is like spring training. Just like the guys out there in Arizona,” said Mike Blake, CDOT General Foreman.

Blake is a human alarm clock, waking up the massive Michigan Avenue bridges that have been hibernating since October.

"It's been a long winter. Just like anything else. And the bridges themselves, they've been sleeping for a while as well. We just try to work out the bugs as best we can,” Blake said.

This rite of spring started Monday with the 89-year-old Clark Street bridge -- the first of 27 bridges crossing the Chicago River that will be tested over the next month or so.

"Make sure that the gates are working correctly and stuff like that. Then the locks. It's all part of the failsafe. Then after that we go through exercising the bridge. First couple lifts he's gonna creak and moan just like anyone else would, you know?" Blake said.

Altogether it takes about a dozen people to test one of the bridges: Five electricians, three machinists, two bridgetenders and a couple people to guard the sidwalks.

Down below the gears have been greased for the first run. Because of the massive counterweight, it all runs on a surprisingly tiny electric motor.

"It's roughly about a 90 horse, believe it or not,” Blake said. "I tell the guys all the time, and this is the honest to God's truth, if you're gonna have a city job, work on the bridges. Be a part of history."

"It's absolutely a privilege to work on these things man. It really is. And our guys feel the same way,” he added.

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