More NATO security and transportation details released

May 4, 2012

(AP/M. Spencer Green)
Occupy Chicago activists block the entrance to a Bank of America branch as part of a May Day demonstration in Chicago. Those planning the protests when the NATO Summit comes to Chicago hope to draw big crowds to the city by linking U.S. spending on war to economic troubles at home.

Chicagoans will have to endure major downtown road blocks, travel restrictions and museum closures when the NATO summit comes to town later this month, federal and city officials announced Friday afternoon, following months of speculation and rumor about how heightened security during the world meeting would affect day-to-day life in the city.

Stretches of Interstate 55 and Lake Shore Drive near the McCormick Place summit site will be blocked off to the public beginning at midnight on Saturday, May 19, according to the U.S. Secret Service, which is heading up security plans for the event.

But some parking bans in the South Loop and near Chicago’s northern museum campuses will begin next Sunday, a week before the May 20th kickoff of the NATO summit. The Adler Planetarium, Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium will be closed to the public on the 20th, as well.

Roads will reopen in time for rush hour on Monday, May 21st, according to the release.

Though commuter train lines will keep running, Metra riders will also have to cope with the closure of the McCormick Place stop on both days of the summit. Commuters should also expect delays as motorcades roll through downtown, according to the release.

“There will be – so I don’t minimize it – inconvenience,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said when asked about the security plans earlier on Friday. “They’re making those plans to accommodate people in – that are in close proximity, for the residents, and I don’t minimize there will be an inconvenience.”

Organizers estimate the world meeting will draw 18,300 people, including international delegates, staff members and thousands of journalists. But the unknowable number of anti-NATO protesters has some business owners and downtown residents on edge.

Law enforcement officials have said the challenge is to meet the strict security demands of visiting world leaders, while keeping the city open for tourists and baseball fans flocking to the city for the Cubs-White Sox crosstown series that overlaps with the NATO summit.

The U.S. Secret Service waited to release detailed security plans until the last possible moment of its self-imposed deadline, just more than two weeks before the May 20-21 summit.