CHICAGO (CBS) — It has been nearly nine months since drivers became trapped along Lake Shore Drive during the Groundhog Day blizzard.
Starting Monday, construction begins to create a few turn-around options. Two new traffic turnarounds will be installed on the north end – one at Armitage and one at Schiller.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) said it’s a good start, but more is needed.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports
“We have learned the lesson of the blizzard last time, that you needed the ability of the city to be able to quickly close down the highway in a way that nobody is stranded for the night again,” Kirk said Sunday.
Kirk called for improvements to Lake Shore Drive right after the blizzard.
The turnarounds will have barriers, but police will be able to open them up in emergency, should they need to get vehicles off the highway. The openings will be large enough for buses and emergency vehicles to pass through.
Hundreds of vehicles became trapped on Lake Shore Drive during the February blizzard, when an accordion-style bus crashed, blocking several lanes and heavy snow began piling up on the highway because cars and snow plows could not get through.
Kirk said that, in addition to road improvements, the city needs to have an orderly procedure in place, in the event that extreme weather conditions make Lake Shore Drive unsafe.
“Because if you have crashing waves, or a tremendous amount of ice hitting the road and freezing, you could have a very dangerous situation,” Kirk said. “So we need an orderly procedure where Chicago public works and (police) can shut down the highway efficiently, allow everyone to leave and make their way home and not have anyone stranded again.”
Kirk said he also is working on new public private partnerships to avoid the need for a gas tax increase in order to get additional money for roads, railroads and airports.