City officials on Thursday morning officially reopened Chicago's Wells Street Bridge to cars and pedestrians after a year-long reconstruction project.
"I want to thank all the commuters for their patience who have been waiting for months for this day," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the 6 a.m. press conference. "The good news is, this is ahead of schedule. This was supposed to actually open up December 1st. We're ahead of schedule and on budget."
Rebuilding of the 91-year-old Chicago River span was done in two major stages that closed the bridge to cars, pedestrians and train traffic earlier this year -- the first in April and a second in May. With the exception of those two major closures, Chicago Transit Authority train service continued throughout the year-long project.
"This bridge will do more than shorten commutes for those in cars and buses, it'll also short commutes for pedestrians and cyclists," outgoing Chicago Department of Commissioner Gabe Klein said.
The bike lane used to hug the right edge of the bridge has been painted green and is now between the through lane and the right turn lane.
Klein is resigning from his post at the end of the month and said the bridge project was one for which he was especially proud.
And the first vehicle across the bridge is... Lionel Ford, a bike messenger! pic.twitter.com/93lnuvxp8z
— gabe klein (@gabe_klein) November 21, 2013
The original Wells Street Bridge was built in 1922. The new bridge was built off-site, shipped in on barges and reconstructed piece-by-piece. The steel was painted red over the summer.