How authorities decide to close which roads, and when -- and how to navigate them

  • Expect the unexpected, experts say, as Chicago has been raising bridges and closing streets to prevent violence. Peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd also have caused closures in the suburbs.

    Expect the unexpected, experts say, as Chicago has been raising bridges and closing streets to prevent violence. Peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd also have caused closures in the suburbs. Associated Press

  • Kris Habermehl is WBBM 780's traffic and spot news reporter.

    Kris Habermehl is WBBM 780's traffic and spot news reporter. Courtesy of Kris Habermehl

 
 
Posted6/8/2020 5:30 AM

Drivers in the suburbs get road closures. Every construction season, someone's favorite street is blocked off so bulldozers can get free rein.

But as protests against racism as well as violence surged last week, road blocks popped up everywhere, surprising unsuspecting drivers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They included Jill D'Silva, who took a family member to Chicago for chemotherapy on Tuesday only to turn around because streets leading to the clinic were closed.

"Chemotherapy needs to occur on time each and every week," the South Barrington resident posted on the Daily Herald's Facebook page.

Along with Chicago raising its bridges and blocking access to downtown streets, Aurora, Naperville, Schaumburg and other suburbs have barred traffic from roads or expressways recently.

In some cases, it was to accommodate peaceful demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer put a knee on his neck May 25. In others, it was to prevent vandals glomming onto the disruption and engaging in looting sprees.

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"We're trying to stop more damage to property and to protect lives," Aurora police spokesman Paris Lewbel said. Looters ravaged multiple shops in the city's downtown June 1.

All I-88 ramps to Aurora were blocked nightly from June 1 through Wednesday.

"For people outside the area, it makes it a little more difficult to get to areas we're concerned about," Lewbel said, adding the city supports peaceful protests.

On May 31, Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg closed early because of social media threats, and police barricaded Route 53 exit and entrance ramps.

It's not a decision authorities take lightly. Multiple professionals are typically involved -- detectives working social media and sources for criminal activity, traffic engineers, sheriff's departments, IDOT, the Illinois tollway and public works crews.

Schaumburg police and Illinois State Police "are evaluating circumstances each day and then deciding if roads need to be closed, the specific locations of those closures and the closure timing based on the daily reports," Schaumburg Transportation Director Karyn Robles said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So far, road closures have all occurred in the late afternoon and early evenings. The goal is to make decisions early in the day so drivers can be informed, Robles said.

The current turbulence does create a "fluid situation," veteran WBBM traffic and spot news reporter Kris Habermehl said. "You could get a ramp that's open one minute, then closed the next."

But the strategy works, said Habermehl, also a lieutenant for the Kirkland Fire Department.

"Having a limited access to a potential hot spot" discourages people seeking to make a rapid entry and rapid exit, he said.

"When people who are of ill intent see police on the ramp" it cues them to a strong police presence and helps with flow control. "It's a good positive step to maintain order at a distance. It really takes down the overall temperature."

Can we expect dwindling churn and open roads this week?

"We're taking it day by day, and that's the hard part," Lewbel said. "I wake up every morning and hope we won't have (looting) happen in Aurora."

To avoid potential travel kinks, experts advise checking the news as well as traffic reports before venturing farther afield. Plan an alternate route, just in case.

Peruse social media for local police department road closure announcements, such as the Aurora Police Department's Twitter account, @AuroraPoliceIL.

Or go to: "Today's street closures" in Chicago; the Illinois State Police's Facebook @ISPDistrict2 and Twitter @ISPDistrict2 feeds; and Illinois tollway Twitter accounts like Tollway Trip 88 (@I_88_Tollway). Got a comment or question? Go to mpyke@dailyherald.com.

Gridlock alert

Ouch. Watch for delays on Touhy Avenue when IDOT crews resurface and improve a section from Higgins Road in Des Plaines to Route 14 in Niles. Work starts Monday and wraps up in fall 2021.

Metra ramping up

Metra, which has been operating on a Sunday schedule, is expected to shift to an alternate schedule this week. In other words, more trains -- limited service will return on the SouthWest Service, Heritage Corridor and North Central Service lines.

To find out more go to metrarail.com.

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