Stretches of Lake Shore Drive, I-55 to be closed during NATO summit

NATO restrictions

Aerial view of McCormick Place, Lake Shore Drive and Soldier Field in Chicago. (Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune / February 16, 2012)

Lake Shore Drive and Interstate Highway 55 near McCormick Place will be closed during the NATO summit, federal and Chicago officials announced today.

In addition to the highways, the security measures for the summit also will close significant portions of Columbus Drive and Roosevelt Road near the museum campus, and several streets near the convention center on the near South Side will also be closed.

The Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and Field Museum will be closed Sunday, May 20, and while the museums will be open on the Saturday before the summit starts,  many parking lots on the museum campus will not be open.

Lake Shore Drive will be closed from Balbo Avenue to 39th Street starting at midnight on May 19, and reopening “for evening rush hour” on May 21, according to the statement from the U.S. Secret Service and the Chicago Police Department. No time was given to define the evening rush.

In addition, I-55 will be closed between Interstate 90/94 and Lake Shore Drive during the same period.

Most streets immediately surrounding McCormick Place will have street parking prohibitions in place, with parking barred on Indiana Avenue between Cermak Road and 24th Street a full week in advance of the summit. Parking prohibitions on other sections of the surrounding neighborhood will go into effect on May 15.

The transportation restrictions also call for “intermittent road closures” on streets surrounding the Willis Tower starting at 6 p.m. on May 19, the day before the summit begins.

Motorcades to and from O’Hare International Airport, as well as around the city, will bring intermittent closings of the Kennedy Expressway between O’Hare and downtown starting Saturday, May 19 through Monday, May 21, the statement said.

Other major streets expected to be effected with closings for motorcades include: Ohio and Ontario Streets from the expressways to Fairbanks Court/Columbus Drive, Interstate 90/94 from downtown to I-55, and Roosevelt, 18th Street and Canalport Avenue near the expressway.

Security officials said commuter train lines would remain open during the summit, but riders should expect delays on the commuter line served by Metra Electric District and the South Shore Line as it passes the McCormick Place stop, which will be closed May 20-21. Other stations also “may be closed as needed,” according to the statement.

Road closings also will effect CTA bus traffic, the statement said, but no details were provided.

Security on the lake, local harbors and the Chicago River will vary in intensity over the summit period, according to the outline.

The most secure area, dubbed Zone A, includes all waters and shoreline in a 2,000-foot radius of the Burnham Park boat ramp near McCormick Place, the announcement states. That area will be closed to all boat traffic beginning May 18 at 8 a.m., through the morning of May 22.

Commercial and recreational boat traffic will be allowed in other areas unless closures become necessary, according to the document. Security Zone B includes the shoreline in a 2,000-foot arc from the outermost tip of the Chicago lock.

Other zones include the river and the shoreline anywhere south of its mouth.

In addition, the announcement states that river bridges will remain down during the summit, not allowing boats to pass, and observers will notice the increased presence of theU.S. Coast Guard during the meetings.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the restrictions are in line with those seen in other cities that host international events. "There will be, so I don't minimize it, inconvenience," he said. "There will be change for those three days."

"I don't minimize that there will be inconvenience, but we're not the only city to have had forums. I think we're lucky to have this," he said at an unrelated news conference in Bronzeville.

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