Bridges to Rails Infrastructure Interactors Takes a Look at the FHWA’s Proposals to Improve Bridge Inspection.

The DuSable Bridge at Michigan Avenue, raised during travel restrictions over the Main Branch, Chicago River, in June 2020. Bridge lifts are ideal times to perform inspections.

Photography has been part of bridge inspection’s recent history and brings to the process an extra level of accuracy in documenting conditions. Versatility in photographing infrastructure is vital as projects expand for repairs and rebuilding of our bridges, rail, and road connections; the bridge inspector and photographer should be prepared for any type of environment. Fortunately, I work in both film and in digital photography, and regard safety as the priority in any situation.

In the article dated November 14, 2019, the FHWA begins by detailing intended methods for bridge inspections, using sonar and unmanned aerial systems, or drones. MAP-21, or Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, is the background for the present set of programs and was designed to fund surface transportation programs. It was intended to be a major economic investment, and its origins date to 1991.

I propose to demonstrate the efficiency of professional-grade equipment and the bridge camera format over that of drones and phones. My photographs of many Chicago bascule and non-movable-span bridges demonstrates the capabilities of the Leica V-LUX-4 and similar cameras that build a wide-range of focal lengths and photograph styles into a small and efficient body. Such cameras provide excellent videos and stills, at costs much less than purchasing the equivalent lenses and heavier bodies, which would run into the tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds of equipment.

Part of the demonstration process includes showing how additional photographic methods, such as the use of superior-quality lenses and bodies that add value to the bridge inspection process may be used when a wider angle is required to gather information about the environment in which the bridge or road or rail is located. When necessary, money may be spent on additional lenses and DSLR bodies to add more versatility to the documentation process, especially for parts of the bridge, rail structure, road structure, or nearby building that are dark or in shadows, or where conditions such as fires, wrecks, or building compromises adversely affect personal safety.

Bascule bridges, these with two single-deck leaves, raised along the South Branch, Chicago River, during travel restrictions in June, 2020. Leica Digital.

See my portfolio on the LaSalle Street Bridge during a bridge lift for photographs demonstrating the versatility of the bridge camera style.


Portfolios of my bridge photographs and articles are available at Bridges to Rails Infrastructure Interactors, Logan Knows Bridges, and Elevated Spans Infrastructures.

NBIS Standards Research Documents for the following Chicago-area bridges:

Adams Street Bridge (1927)
Ashland Avenue Bridge (1936)
Canal Street Bridge, South (1949)
Canal Street Railroad Bridge (1914, the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge #458)
Cermak Road Bridge, West (1906, a few photos while at S. Canal Street)
Cherry Avenue Bobtail Swing Bridge Z-2, North (1902)
Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Bridge (1908, the Kinzie Street Bridge)
Chicago Avenue Bridge (original dates from 1914)
Clark Street Bridge (1929)
Columbus Drive Bridge (1982)
Cortland Street Bridge (1901, the Clybourn Place Bridge)
Dearborn Street Bridge (1962)
DuSable Bridge at Michigan Avenue (1920)
Franklin-Orleans Street Bridge (1920)
Grand Avenue Bridge (1913)
Halsted Street Bridge, North (1955)
Harrison Street Bridge, West (1960)
Ida B. Wells at West Congress Parkway Bridge (1956)
Jackson Boulevard Bridge (1915)
Kinzie Street Bridge (1909)
LaSalle Street Bridge (1928, the Marshall Suloway Bridge)
Lake Street Bridge (1916)
Lake Shore Drive (Outer Drive) Bridge (1937)
Madison Street Bridge (1922, the Lyric Opera Bridge)
Monroe Street Bridge (1919)
North Avenue Bridge, West (1907 original demolished , new suspension opened 2008)
Ohio Street Bridge (1961)
Randolph Street Bridge (1984)
Roosevelt Road Bridge, West (1928, the 12th Street Bridge)
St. Charles Air Line (1919, the 18th Street Bridge) and B&OCT Bridges (1930)
State Street Bridge (1949, the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge)
Van Buren Street Bridge, West (1956)
Wabash Avenue Bridge (1930, the Irv Kupcinet Bridge)
Washington Boulevard Bridge, West (1913)
Wells Street Bridge (1922)
Webster Avenue Bridge, West (1916)
Z-6 Swing Bridge (1899, the bobtail swing bridge called the Milwaukee Road Bloomingdale Line Railroad Bridge, and built by the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Saint Paul Railway)

Bridge Inspection Training Manual, 1970