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posted: 5/11/2012 4:29 PM

Metra riders can expect delays, restrictions for NATO summit

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  • Metra riders can expect numerous security restrictions during the NATO Summit.

       Metra riders can expect numerous security restrictions during the NATO Summit.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
 

Get to the station 15 minutes early. Expect possible pat-downs. Leave the backpack at home. And you can forget that morning java.

Those are among the restrictions and changes facing Metra commuters May 19 through May 21 while the NATO summit takes over Chicago.

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North, Northwest and West suburban riders do get a break in that all train lines will operate normally. Some passengers on the Metra Electric Line will have to find alternate transportation with a number of station closings on tap.

The summit will be held May 20 and 21 at McCormick Place.

"We're the only (transit) service that runs underneath McCormick Place," Metra Executive Director Alex Clifford said Friday. "We understand the inconvenience the NATO summit creates for our riders."

Metra officials didn't offer details of what commuters should look for in terms of policing at stations but didn't rule out K-9 units, pat-downs and baggage checks at a news conference Friday. Searches and screenings could occur before boarding or on the train.

"Riders should expect a heightened security presence," Metra communications director Robert Carlton said.

There's also a list of "do not bring" items on trains.

• All liquids and food are prohibited, including bottles of milk for infants, soft drinks and coffee.

• Big purses are out, with bags limited to those 15 inches square and 4 inches deep. Luggage, backpacks, boxes and bikes are forbidden during the three-day period.

• Also off-limits on trains are tools, pipes, stakes, wood or weapons such as pocket knives or pepper spray.

Any law enforcement officers traveling on Metra are asked to identify themselves and show credentials and any weapons. Security guards are not permitted to carry weapons.

Metra officials said they worked extensively with the U.S. Secret Service to develop the safety plan. "It was a challenge and it took a while to get to this place," Clifford said.

On the Metra Electric Line, the 27th Street, McCormick Place, 18th Street and Museum Campus stops will be closed from May 19 to May 21. Ten stations on the main Electric Line between Pullman and 63rd Street will be closed Monday, May 21, along with 11 stops on the Blue Island and South Chicago branches.

The main Electric Line serves 14,000 commuters daily Monday to Friday compared to 2,500 on Saturdays and 1,800 on Sundays.

"We have limited manpower to accomplish security screenings on Monday," Clifford said. "We picked stations with ridership that is less than 200 trips a day."

For more information, go to http://metrarail.com/metra/en/home.html

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