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Blizzaster 2011: Lake Shore Drive Open, Side Streets Next. Where Was Daley?

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 3, 2011 3:10PM

The cleanup from the Blizzard of 2011 continues. Lake Shore Drive, which had 239 cars still stranded on it as of 5 p.m. yesterday, is now cleared and open to traffic. Motorists who had to strand their cars on Lake Shore Drive during the height of the storm Tuesday night should call 311 to find the location of their vehicles. The city's Streets and Sanitation department towed all vehicles to parking lots near the Drive at Wells, Chicago, Belmont, Wilson, Foster and Soldier Field. The city has set up a database so motorists can find their cars. Security details have been set up at each lot to help ensure that no one's coming to jack your car. Since these towings were weather-related emergencies, motorists stranded on Lake Shore Drive will not be charged for them.

As for the decision to keep Lake Shore Drive open, Mayor Daley's Chief of Staff, Raymond Orozco, took full responsibility for that yesterday. Orozco said repeatedly at the many OEMC press conferences throughout the day that the city made the decision based on the to-the-moment data they had at the time. "Traffic was moving slow," Orozco said, "but it was moving." Not according to the motorists and bus riders, including our own Benjy Lipsman, who dealt with four hour commutes on the drive before it was shut down

But there's certainly blame to go around. As Benjy pointed out yesterday, the driver of his bus told him that he couldn't use his radio or phone while driving, which meant riders weren't getting updates. Also, the motorists themselves may hold some responsibility. Every weatherman and meteorologist in town gave the city advance warning of the scope of this storm. Orozco may have said the city was as prepared as they could be, but given how hard and fast the snow fell, even their plows couldn't keep up.

The mayoral hopefuls, of course, are using the decision to keep Lake Shore Drive open to criticize the conspicuously absent Mayor Daley. The tab for cleanup for this storm may exceed $100 million, leaving the next mayor with a structural deficit of $1 billion. Rahm Emanuel, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle were all unified in their criticizing the decision to keep the Drive open.

Now that the Drive is open, attention turns to the side streets. Some have been given cursory sweeps of the plows. But they and alleys need to be cleared as soon as possible to accommodate garbage pickup and other city services. City officials say the side streets will be cleared as soon as possible.