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Reilly details plan to prevent Lower Wacker drag racing

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) is fleshing out the details of his proposal to turn Lower Wacker Drive into a “No Cruising Zone” to prevent “Fast & Furious” style drag-racing and spin contests, one of which turned deadly last week.

In a newsletter to his constituents that also included photos of physical impediments installed in the area, Reilly said the ordinance he plans to introduce at Wednesday’s City Council meeting would apply to all street levels in the area bounded by Wacker Drive, Randolph Street, Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue.

“No Cruising Zones prohibit motorists from driving through a cruise-free zone more than once in a one-hour period,” the alderman wrote.

“Violations can result in a written notice for passing through twice; followed by a $100 fine if a third passage is observed within the same one-hour time-frame. The fine will increase to $200 for the second offense and $300 for the third or subsequent offenses if the violations occur within one year.”

Concrete barriers have been installed on Lower Lower Wacker Drive at Stetson Avenue and Columbus Drive to reduce the width of the intersections. | Photo provided by Ald. Brendan Reilly
Concrete barriers have been installed on Lower Lower Wacker Drive at Stetson Avenue and Columbus Drive to reduce the width of the intersections. | Photo provided by Ald. Brendan Reilly

Reilly also plans to introduce a second ordinance creating a “No Stopping/No Standing/No Parking Tow Zone” on Lower Wacker Drive between Stetson and Field Boulevard. The tow zone would be in effect seven days-a-seek between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.

“These ordinances will provide another enforcement tool for the Chicago Police Department to prevent large groups of vehicles from gathering or cruising through the streets in the New Eastside,” Reilly wrote.

The alderman thanked the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Department of Transportation for addressing “this very serious neighborhood safety concern.”

Nearly two months ago, the Chicago Sun-Times lifted the veil on the Friday night antics that keeps downtown residents awake at night and endanger the drag racing die-hards who congregate to compete on Lower Wacker Drive.

Reilly responded by ordering more surveillance cameras installed on Lower Wacker Drive and Lower Randolph — and by opening the door to installing “barricades, islands and speed bumps” — to slow down drag racers and discourage “Figure-8 spin contests.”

At the time, Reilly asked the Police Department’s First District to crack down on Lower Wacker drag racing. He also gave the CDOT marching orders to “survey the infrastructure” of Lower Wacker Drive and Lower Randolph to see what the streets can handle in the way of physical improvement.

Last week, the impediments were put in place, using Reilly’s $1.32 million in aldermanic “menu money” earmarked for infrastructure improvements of an alderman’s choosing.

“Speed humps were installed between the supports on Lower Lower Wacker Drive, between the concrete wall abutting the Hyatt Regency Chicago loading area, and Stetson Avenue,” Reilly wrote.

“Additional speed humps were installed … at strategic locations along Lower Lower Wacker Drive for both eastbound and westbound directions of traffic: between Stetson Avenue and Columbus Drive; and Columbus Drive and Field Boulevard….Newly painted concrete jersey barriers have been installed at the Lower Lower Wacker Drive crossings with Stetson Avenue and Columbus Drive in order to reduce the width of the intersections.”

Last week, the Friday night antics that keeps downtown residents awake at night turned deadly for a drag racing die-hard.

Just 20 minutes after a police blitzkrieg ended, two friends were drag-racing against each other in a Jeep and a BMW while westbound on Lower Wacker. One vehicle reportedly swerved in front of the other, clipping its front end. That sent both vehicles careening into support beams.

The driver of the BMW, identified as Jose Luviano Jr., was killed. The driver of the Jeep, identified as Ivan Sanchez, was charged with one count of reckless homicide, one count of aggravated DUI, four misdemeanor counts of DUI and issued several traffic citations.

Reilly is hoping that the physical changes — coupled with hefty fines and blanket towing — will prevent a repeat of the drag-racing tragedy.

Speed humps were installed between the supports on Lower Lower Wacker Drive near the Hyatt Regency Chicago loading area. | Photo provided by Ald. Brendan Reilly
Speed humps were installed between the supports on Lower Lower Wacker Drive near the Hyatt Regency Chicago loading area. | Photo provided by Ald. Brendan Reilly