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Lake Shore Drive Bridge Repairs Underway After Emergency Closure

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two and a half weeks after a crack in the Lake Shore Drive Bridge over the Chicago River forced its closing, permanent repairs are underway.

Steel plates are being installed to hold the stretch of bridge together safely.

Work attaching custom fabricated steel plates started Thursday. The Chicago Department of Transportation says workers will install the plates to several locations under the viaduct starting at the spot where the cracks developed.

The first major crack was spotted almost three weeks ago when city crews noticed it while doing routine work in the area. That forced the 24-hour shutdown of northbound Lake Shore Drive in the area while support beams were installed below the section of the bridge over the Chicago River.

With those beams in place and traffic safely running above, CDOT has been working on preventative maintenance and repairs. That included cleaning and painting sections of the steel, all to ready it for the plates that are now being installed.

The cleaning and painting will continue while the steel plates go in.

Last month a civil engineer from the University of Illinois at Chicago took a look at the problem for CBS 2. Friday she went back to check out the progress.

"Right now the load is carried by those towers, so once they remove the towers, the load will transfer from the girder to the expansion joint. And they can make sure that all the stresses are below the limit. And so we can safely use that new retrofitted connection," Didem Ozevin said.

Repairs are expected to take several weeks but will not interrupt traffic flow.

After the crack was discovered CDOT said it would be inspecting other similar structures. Those were at Fullerton and the river and Wacker approaching Lake Shore Drive.

Those inspections were finished last week and found no significant safety issues.

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