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Metra lines won’t close during NATO summit

Updated: May 19, 2012 8:13AM



Rail lines that operate beneath McCormick Place will remain open during the May 20-21 NATO summit, but station closings are still possible and commuters should expect delays to protect world leaders meeting there, the U.S. Secret Service announced Tuesday.

Meanwhile, while the Daley Center isn’t scheduled to be closed, the front doors would be locked should protests turn violent outside or close to the downtown court complex next month, building staff announced during safety drills on Tuesday afternoon. The court docket has been scaled back, however , officials said. Among other reasons, that will allow police officers who might otherwise be testifying in traffic or other courts to remain on the streets.

As for the trains, Frank Benedetto, special agent in charge of the Chicago field office for the Secret Service, said in a written statement that officials have devised “a plan that will allow commuter trains to run during the summit without compromising security.”

Although train service will continue during the summit, it will not be business as usual for commuters, the Secret Service warned.

“Passengers should plan for some delays as trains approach and pass through the McCormick Place stop due to security measures,” the statement said.

Officials said “information on possible delays and individual station closures will be released in the coming weeks” along with “a comprehensive plan detailing additional transportation security restrictions.”

In an interview, Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie refused to say how long trains would be delayed. Nor would he identify the stations that might be closed during the summit.

“That’ll be determined later on — if any specific rail stations will be closed. It’s possible, [but] it’ll be minimal, if that’s to happen,” Ogilvie said.

“From our perspective, the rails can remain open. We’re not asking them to shut down rail service. The option to let the rail service continue is available. That’s a question for the railways.”

Metra spokesman Mike Gillis also said final plans hadn’t been set, but said, “at this time we anticipate our Metra Electric line will operate, however, we are advising riders there could be delays.” The Metra Electric line stops at McCormick Place and operates 172 trains beneath the convention center serving more than 18,000 weekday commuters.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier last month that the Secret Service was considering shutting down rail lines that run beneath McCormick Place during the summit. The extraordinary security measure could have impacted the South Shore and Metra Electric lines as well as Amtrak. All three lines operate beneath the summit site where leaders from more than 50 nations will gather.

Also on Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel dismissed as routine the Secret Service plan to put up 17,000 linear feet of concrete security barriers and 3,600 linear feet of chain link fences to protect President Barack Obama and world leaders during the summit.

The so-called “portable vehicle barriers” must be capable of stopping a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling at 30 mph, according to bid specifications released by the Secret Service.

“I want you to understand that this is normal — like what Charlotte [N.C.] is gonna do for a convention [and] Tampa’s gonna do for a convention,” the mayor said, referring to the cities due to host the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

“We have the best police department in the country. We have the federal government coming in also. Security is appropriate when you have 50 world leaders and their secretaries of defense, state and foreign ministers all here, in addition to other heads of state. This is not different than what’s gonna happen in other cities — [but] it’s unique because the whole world will be here. That’s a unique opportunity for the city.”

Contributing: Lisa Donovan



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