Candidates: Put safety gaps in Lake Shore Drive
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter February 4, 2011 3:36PM
Chicago February 2, 2011 A and bulldozer clears off Lake Shore Drive near Oak Street after it was closed during Wednesday's blizzard. | Suzanne Tennant~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 14, 2011 4:57AM
Mayoral challengers Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle on Friday suggested periodic gaps in the median planters that beautified Lake Shore Drive to prevent a repeat of the Blizzard of 2011 fiasco.
If there had been a few well-positioned breaks along the way, emergency vehicles would have had quicker access to stranded motorists and traffic stalled behind accidents could have been diverted to the southbound lanes before being buried in snow, both candidates said.
Instead, as many as 900 vehicles, including CTA buses, were stuck on Lake Shore Drive for hours after three accidents in 28 minutes, followed by ramp closures caused by high winds, drifting snow and white-out conditions.
The Drive was closed for 34 hours before a cavalcade of tow trucks removed the vehicles.
“Whether or not you should have breaks for emergency turn-arounds is something we need to look at,” Chico said.
“But, I don’t think you want to take out those median planters because people love the beautification that brought to the Drive north and south. In fact, we’ve been complimented from tourists around the world.”
Del Valle said there are many “lessons” to be learned from the Lake Shore Drive debacle — and one of them is that, “You have to have access.”
“Nine, ten hours stuck in a vehicle with the road on the other side totally clear? That’s crazy. ... The flowers are beautiful. It adds to the lakefront. But, put breaks in it so you can turn the traffic around and emergency vehicles can get into the emergency lane to pick up folks,” he said.
Brian Steele, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation, noted that Lake
Shore Drive is designed without shoulders “to handle modern-day traffic volumes.”
“Because the roadway has no shoulders, it is not possible to add turn-arounds to allow U-turns. There would be no space to allow vehicles to decelerate or accelerate and merge,” he said.
“However, as part of the review of the blizzard response, we will review the issues related to the Lake Shore Drive back-up.”
Candidate Carol Moseley Braun was more concerned about side street snow removal — or the lack of it.
Braun complained that residential streets in her Hyde Park neighborhood are in such “lousy” condition, she “got stuck” on Friday morning — two days after the snow stopped falling.
“There really are right now inequities that come as much from who’s tied into whom and kind of the insider political clout deal than not — and that’s a Chicago tragedy,” Braun said.
“I don’t have proof of this, so don’t hold me to it. But, I was told that, in some wards, peoples’ alleys were being shoveled while the main streets weren’t being shoveled in other wards. This is something that needs to be corrected.”
If she’s elected mayor, Braun said she would switch from a ward-by-ward to a less-costly grid-system for snow removal, garbage collection and other sanitation services. That would diminish aldermanic control, but provide a “fairer allocation” of equipment, manpower and other resources, she said.
“An objection from the aldermen should not get in the way of somebody not being able to get to work because their street isn’t plowed — and there are a lot of people still in Chicago right now who can’t get to work,” Braun said.
Chico, del Valle and Rahm Emanuel have all talked about switching to a grid system for sanitation services to save money.