Reilly promises solutions to ‘Fast & Furious'-style drag-racing on Lower Wacker

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A driver does doughnuts as drag-racing fans watch on Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago. | Screen shot from video

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) on Monday ordered more surveillance cameras installed on Lower Wacker Drive and Lower Randolph and opened the door to installing “barricades, islands and speed bumps” to prevent drag-racing and “figure-eight spin contests” that keep downtown residents awake at night.

Reilly conferred with the commander of the Chicago Police Department’s First District and gave the Chicago Department of Transportation marching orders to find a solution to combat the Fast & Furious-style antics that disturb sleep.

Reilly said he’s asked CDOT to “survey the infrastructure” of Lower Wacker Drive and Lower Randolph to see what the streets can handle in the way of physical deterrents.

RELATED: Can speed bumps muffle engine-roaring speed-racers on Lower Wacker?

“I’ve encouraged the department to consider possible physical changes — such as barricades, islands and speed-humps. I’m also requesting new POD cameras in strategic locations to help the police respond to these incidents in real-time,” Reilly said in an emailed response to Sun-Times questions about the problem. POD cameras are the police surveillance cameras with flashing blue lights and large CPD logos on them.

“We do not have the luxury of permanently assigning police officers to guard Lower Wacker and Randolph against drag-racing. But we can make the area less attractive for these activities by changing infrastructure and by adding more surveillance via cameras.”

Once he gets the CDOT recommendations, Reilly said he will “review those options with city departments and move forward with the most appropriate blend of tactics to help put an end to this quality-of-life and public safety concern.”

Reilly’s predecessor, Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd), waged war against loud motorcycles and radios. But the problem on Lower Wacker and Lower Randolph has gotten seriously worse during Reilly’s tenure.

More than 10,000 people now live within earshot along the riverfront east of the Michigan Avenue bridge.

Three stories below bustling downtown streets, cavernous concrete walls echo and amplify the growl, which booms across the adjacent Chicago River as cars tear down the pavement and perform tire-burning figure eights.

On a recent Friday night, unable to sleep or watch TV because of the noise, Lauren McLaughlin monitored the commotion from her upper-floor apartment across the river and went through a series of steps that she says have become routine: Call police. Watch as police come and everyone scatters. Continue watching, with growing anxiety, as cars return after police leave.

“There were literally about 100 cars out there” on a recent Fridaynight, said McLaughlin. “I’m to my breaking point. I’m looking at moving. I can’t sleep. I can’t take it. I really like my building and the area, except for that. And nothing is done to prevent them from coming.”

Videos and photos of the drivers are easy to find online and Facebook pages exist to post pictures and discuss gatherings.

Warm weather brings more cars, as well as more complaints from neighbors.

The possibility of installing speed bumps has been discussed at recent community meetings. But the concern is that speed bumps could become a nuisance for law-abiding motorists and delivery trucks who use Lower Wacker loading docks.

Some residents believe the solution lies in a police officer with a video camera, a device to monitor sound levels and a blitzkrieg of citations bearing hefty fines already in place for excessive noise.

Chicago Police already know who many of the drivers are and have issued hundreds of tickets, including many for illegal modifications to motorcycles or cars. But tickets have not been an effective deterrent.

Lupe Garcia, an 18-year-old auto mechanic from Berwyn, is a Lower Wacker regular.

“I never thought about the people who live in the area,” he said. “But I don’t see what’s the big deal is, honestly, because I have been up there and I can barely hear it.”

Contributing: Mitch Dudek

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