They were heading to Washington, D.C., today to learn about government and watch history in the making, but the lesson is starting early for Concord Lutheran School students.
Along with thousands of inconvenienced Metra regulars and downtown Chicago workers, Concord Lutheran School kids are putting up with disruptions caused by the NATO summit, parent Paul Feddersen emailed me.
Vacation or staycation?Not everyone will be stampeding to holiday-ville this Memorial Day. AAA predicts 34.8 million folks will drive, fly or boat 50 miles or more from home over the long weekend. That's just a 1.2 percent increase from 2011 when 34.3 million left town. In Illinois, 1.8 million travelers will seek greener pastures, a .8 percent uptick from last year. The vast majority of vacationers -- about 1.6 million -- will drive.
The biannual trip is a big deal for the school -- the youngest pupils eagerly anticipate the day when they reach the heights of seventh and eighth grade and can travel to Washington.
"We had everything planned out," 13-year-old Cassidy Feddersen said. "We raised money all year."
It was the perfect plan. The Metra station is just a few blocks from the Bensenville school. Students would take Metra to Union Station and walk 200 feet to a waiting Amtrak train.
Paul Feddersen, who works in the Loop, would be on the platform with Subway sandwiches to hand off for dinner.
The train would leave the station at 6 p.m. -- everyone could get a good night's sleep and save money on a hotel -- then arrive in Washington at noon ready to go.
Oh, the best-laid plans. The trip departure date -- today -- coincides with the NATO summit's last day and all the traffic disruptions and security measures that entails. On May 11 when Metra announced travel restrictions banning luggage, students -- not surprisingly -- freaked out.
"What was going to be a great train travel experience has had some of the luster taken away," Paul Feddersen said.
Fortunately, Lutherans are great at contingency plans.
Plan B involves taking a school bus downtown at noon and hoping the Eisenhower Expressway doesn't shut down for a motorcade. If the expressway isn't moving, Plan C would involve getting off near Oak Park and jumping on the CTA's Blue Line.
"We'd rather sit and wait a couple of hours than be on the Eisenhower when the our train is leaving," teacher Paul Golz said.
The trip is a culmination of a year of studying the Constitution and American history.
"They get to see what we learn about during the school year in action," Golz said.
One of the highlights will be a tour of the White House. In February, Michelle Obama and dog Bo surprised visitors, and students are crossing their fingers it could happen again. "We hope that they'll show up," Cassidy said.
One more thing
For the record, if you're traveling on Metra today, remember to leave the coffee at home and show up 15 minutes early to get through security screenings.
• All food is prohibited. Liquids in quantities greater than 3 ounces are banned, including coffee and soft drinks. Breast milk is allowed.
• Just one bag today, folks, and make it a small one. Bag size is limited to 15 inches square and 4 inches deep. Luggage, backpacks, boxes and bikes are forbidden.
And on Tuesday, it will all be over. But, if you're experiencing summit-related headaches, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You should know
With all the international big shots and their entourages jetting into O'Hare and limiting access for smaller aircraft, the DuPage Airport is hoping to get in on some of the action. The U.S. Secret Service has imposed flight restrictions for general aviation at O'Hare.
Airport Executive Director David Bird Friday said the airport has seen additional flight operations that have diverted from Midway, and expects the trend to continue. "O'Hare is not taking any general aviation traffic for the duration of the summit, so we expect some of those operations to come to DuPage," he said. Also, "the temporary flight restrictions will be in effect from Saturday evening through Monday evening and we expect some traffic as a result of the impacts of the restrictions on traffic originally scheduled to go into Midway."
Reader Chas Murphy is so enthused about roundabouts he emailed us a link to one in Sheboygan, Wis., at the interchange of I-43 and Route 42. "Traffic moves smoothly even with the big Wal-Mart there next to the interchange," Murphy wrote. "The aesthetics of the landscaped circles also add a lot to the overall scheme.
There are more roundabouts to the west on Route 42 also. So many people go from fearing and disliking (roundabouts) to eventually loving them after they get used to them." To check it out for yourself, go to Google Maps, and type in I-43, Route 42, Sheboygan and enjoy the view.
Or if you're reading the column online, here's a link, maps.google.com/map.
You can comment on the draft proposal for a Route 53 extension and related Route 120 improvements by visiting www.frego.com/route53/. Comments will be accepted until further notice. The Illinois tollway is studying whether to undertake the project.
Heading to U of I or southern Illinois for vacation? Be aware the Illinois tollway is building an interchange at I-57 and the Tri-State. It's not cheap or easy; construction of the all-electronic interchange will cost $719 million and be completed in 2024.
For this year, expect lane reductions at the Tri-State and 147th Street bridges as well as traffic shifts. Be careful out there.