Work begins to make Lake Shore Drive safer

October 31, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Crews are adding an escape route to help drivers and emergency vehicles get around on the Drive.

Workers will eventually install two median openings along the drive to provide turnaround access during emergencies. The turnaround points are at Armitage and Schiller.

As a result of the construction work, the left lane on Lake Shore Drive is closed in each direction between Armitage and Goethe.

Monday afternoon was the first rush hour with the construction in progress. The project is an attempt to prevent another disaster like the one that happened back in February during a blizzard that left motorists stranded.

"We have different monitors, whether they be cameras or actual humans on scene, and then we'll start making determinations as to what actions need to be taken," said OEMC Executive Director Gary Schenkel.

City officials are hoping the LSD upgrades could make the next blizzard less of a meltdown.

Crews began the prep work Monday for a construction project that will make it easier for motorists to avoid getting stuck on Lake Shore Drive during a heavy snowstorm or other emergencies.

The project involves installing two median opening along the Drive. The turnarounds will be at Armitage and at Schiller because they are prone to snow drifts and have limited emergency access.

The 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard was the third worst in Chicago history. Officials said 525 vehicles were removed after they got stuck on Lake Shore Drive. The February 2011 blizzard was the third worst snow storm in Chicago history. The Drive was closed for 33 hours.

The construction will put in place movable concrete barriers that look like the existing barrier walls that would only be opened during extreme weather events or crucial situations.

The construction project is designed to prevent future problems.

"You'll see a greater presence of city activity early on in any of the situations where it may have the potential of getting worse," said Schenkel.

The federally funded construction project is designed to prevent future problems.

"I think for this winter we look at the turnarounds and an orderly plan with caution being the watch word, and then long term look at what will the drive look like 20 years from now," said U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.

By 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, LSD traffic was backed up from the Oak Street curve most of the way to into the construction zone, although there are still three lanes of traffic open in each direction.

The project is scheduled to be completed by late November.

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