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Secret Service details NATO Summit restrictions

Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) – Roadways, parking lots and some of Chicago’s top tourist attractions will close when world leaders come to the city later this month for the NATO Summit.

The U.S. Secret Service on Friday released what it calls its Security Restrictions and Transportation Plan for the May 20-21 summit, outlining a host of regulations for an area that stretches from O’Hare International Airport to downtown.

The plan calls for intermittent road closures on the Kennedy Expressway, the main thoroughfare that connects the airport to downtown, between May 19 and May 21 to accommodate the motorcades of world leaders attending the summit.

Stretches of Lake Shore Drive near McCormick Place, the site of the summit, will shut down starting that Saturday. Just north of McCormick Place at what is called the Museum Campus, three of the city’s top tourist attractions _ the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum _ will be closed that Sunday. No one will be allowed to even walk around the picturesque area on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The report said while those three attractions will remain open on Saturday, May 19, a number of parking lots will be closed. Any vehicle parked in one of the open lots after 5:30 p.m. Saturday will be towed.

Melissa Stratton, spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department, stressed that while the summit will result in some inconveniences, “They will be brief and minimal.”

She said some of the delays will involve “rolling closures” that are common when world leaders are being driven from place to place. She also noted the plan includes alternative routes for motorists.

Airspace restrictions will also be in place, but the Secret Service release did not detail what those would be. Boaters on Lake Michigan will also face restrictions several days before and just after the summit as the Coast Guard increases its presence on the waterways.

Street parking will be limited in the days up to the summit and during the summit, with some of the restrictions on surface streets near McCormick Place beginning as early as a full week before the summit begins.

The Secret Service also plans intermittent road closures near Willis Tower, the tallest building in North America and another top tourist attraction in the city. The Secret Service did not explain why, but security around the iconic skyscraper was dramatically beefed up after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Lori Healey, executive director of the city’s NATO Summit host committee, said the Willis Tower security is necessary because at least one official event is scheduled there. That event has not yet been announced.

Commuter rail lines, some of which run right underneath the summit venue, will not be closed, but passengers should count on delays and some buses will be rerouted, the release said. The rail stop serving the McCormick Place convention center will be closed on both days of the gathering.

Chicago officials are bracing for thousands of protesters for the NATO meeting, which will focus on the war in Afghanistan and other international security matters. Protest groups are being kept about three blocks from the summit venue.

Andy Thayer, a political activist and protest organizer, said the security outline leaves authorities room to put in place even heavier restrictions at the last moment.

“There always is the threat that they’re going to put in something much more expansive and they’ve been known to do this right on the day of (similar events),” he said.


Associated Press writer Jason Keyser contributed to this report.

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