The Lake Shore Drive drawbridge that spans the Chicago River carries thousands of cars a day.

It's among the first structures to catch the vicious winter winds off the lake.

And it's one of the final barriers for tall-masted rivercraft seeking open water.

To suburban native Richard Dorsay, though, it's home.

Or it was until Sunday, when the 36-year-old homeless man was evicted by police and city officials -- who were stunned to find he'd been living for at least three years in a little wooden village built into the beams and girders of the bridge's intricate underbelly.

Dorsay and several of his "neighbors" were able to enter through a slim, almost unnoticeable opening in the median of the double-decker bridge's lower level. They then crawled to their lair, which was replete with creature comforts and nearly invisible to anybody on the river.

Dorsay tapped into the bridge's electricity to power a space heater, television, PlayStation video game and microwave.

If he had to bathe, he might slip upstairs to the usually vacant -- and sometimes unlocked -- bridgetender's office and wash off in a sink.

Authorities were amazed not only by his elaborate setup, but that he had managed to survive so long inside a bridge that, in the warmer months at least, regularly rises and lowers, shifting gears and tons of steel.

But to Dorsay, that was just part of the pace of his life below, which included watching Bears games and sharing a few beers with friends.

When the bells rang, signaling the arms of the bridge soon would ascend, he braced for a ride and cruised with the bridge as it slowly pitched him forward. If he was sitting down, he'd soon be standing.

"The first time it was scary,'' Dorsay said in an interview. "After that, it was almost like riding a Ferris wheel.''