[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ld. John Arena took drastic measures Monday. The outspoken alderman, who’s often at odds with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, used his car to block city construction crews from working on a project at the intersection of West Wilson Avenue and North Lamon Avenue in the Portage Park neighborhood. The construction, which began over the weekend, would have turned over a public street to a billboard company so they can install a digital billboard adjacent to the Kennedy Expressway.
“Last week, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) unilaterally and inappropriately moved to permanently close the intersection of Lamon and Wilson Avenues in front of the Mayfair Pumping Station,” said Arena in a statement. “CDOT and the Mayor’s Office did not consult me or the residents of this community before giving us the Meigs Field treatment. I strongly oppose this move.”
Arena was referring to the now infamous order from former Mayor Richard M. Daley to destroy Meigs Field by carving X-shaped trenches into the lakefront airport’s runways in the dead of night on March 30, 2003. Nicknamed the “Meigs Massacre,” Daley ordered city crews to bulldoze the runway without the 30-day advance warning required by FAA regulations which resulted in 16 planes being left stranded at an airport with no operating runway and an inbound flight being diverted to another airport.
At the time, Daley cited concerns about terrorism as the reason he destroyed the airport’s runways. However, for years before that midnight bulldozing, Daley had also said he wanted to transform Meigs into a recreational park.
Regarding his actions Monday, Arena said the closure of the intersection at West Wilson Avenue and North Lamon Avenue would force hundreds of drivers every day, including the Streets and Sanitation trucks that service the entire Northwest Side, onto an already-congested Lawrence Avenue. The detour would also force drivers from the neighborhood who enter and exit the Edens Expressway at Wilson to use the Cicero and Lawrence intersection, which is already congested, he said.
After his one-man protest, commissioners from the CDOT, the city’s water department, as well as representatives from the Mayor’s Office, met with Arena in what he described as a “fruitful meeting.”
In a statement, CDOT officials said the work was paused so information about the project could be “compiled and shared.”
Arena said a public meeting, where residents can get their questions answered and offer ideas about the project, was in the works at press time on Tuesday afternoon.