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Ald. Reilly wants to crack down on Lower Wacker drag-racing

Lower Wacker Drive would be declared a “No Cruising Zone” — and vehicles parking, standing and stopping during late-night hours could be towed — under a crackdown proposed Tuesday to prevent “Fast & Furious”-style drag-racing like the thrill ride that turned deadly last weekend.

More than a month ago, media reports lifted the veil on the Friday night antics that keep downtown residents awake at night and endanger the speed demons who congregate on Lower Wacker.

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) responded by ordering more surveillance cameras installed on Lower Wacker 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 Chicago Police Department’s First District to crack down on Lower Wacker drag racing. He also gave the Chicago Department of Transportation 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 barriers.

Now, Reilly has zeroed in on a comprehensive solution that involves both physical improvements and a legislative crackdown.

“The alderman has … prepared ordinances for introduction at [next weeks’s] City Council meeting to establish a ‘No Cruising Zone’ in the area and a new late-night ‘No Parking/No Standing/No Stopping Tow Zone’ along Wacker Drive between Stetson and Field Boulevard. Both ordinances will provide police with more tools to prevent vehicles from cruising through [and gathering in] this area for drag racing,” Reilly’s office wrote in an email to his constituents.

The newsletter went on to say that Reilly has agreed to spend money from his so-called “aldermanic menu” for the installation of new barricades, speed humps and safety signage on Lower Wacker, based on “infrastructure changes” recommended by CDOT.

Reilly’s newsletter acknowledges with great regret that the changes come too late to prevent the kind of deadly consequences that happened last weekend within minutes of a “comprehensive overnight police mission” on Lower Wacker that lasted until 3 a.m. and included both tactical units and moonlighting officers.

“Just 20 minutes after the 1st Police District concluded their mission on Saturday morning, there was a drag racing-related fatality on Lower Wacker. The incident involved friends in a Jeep and BMW, traveling westbound on Lower Wacker at a high rate of speed. According to reports, one vehicle swerved in front of the other, clipping its front end and sending both vehicles careening into support beams,” Reilly’s newsletter stated.

The driver of the BMW, identified as Jose Luviano Jr., was killed. The driver of the Jeep, identified as Ivan Sanchez, was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI and slapped with several traffic citations.

Reilly could not be reached for comment on the fatal accident or his response to it. In the newsletter, the alderman extended his sympathies to Luviano’s family and said he hopes other thrill-seekers will learn from the tragedy.

“It was a senseless tragedy that could have and should have been avoided,” the alderman was quoted as saying.

“To those who still think drag racing is a crime without consequences: I’d encourage them to again review the details of this horrific incident and understand the profound impact this drag racing tragedy is now having on the Luviano and Sanchez families.”

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 severely worse during Reilly’s tenure.

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

The belated crackdown on drag racing will undoubtedly be welcome news to sleep-deprived residents of the area now known as the “New East Side.”