January 21, 2013
It's a frequent scene just outside O'Hare International Airport, almost as common as seeing airplanes land and take off.
At first glance it looks like a possible multicar fender bender on Interstate 190, the road leading to O'Hare. Cars sit on the emergency shoulder, some with their hazard lights flashing.
But there are no police cars or tow trucks in sight.
Drivers approaching in the right lane quickly try to switch to one of the left lanes to steer clear of the parked cars. At highway speed, it's a sudden and potentially dangerous maneuver.
What's the emergency? There isn't one. The squatters on the shoulder are waiting to pick up arriving passengers.
"Every time I drive to the airport I am struck by the number of cars sitting on the side in clear violation of the 'no stopping, no standing' signs," said Linda Projansky, a Northwest Side resident. "It's really dangerous, especially when the parked cars leave the shoulder and merge into traffic."
It's an accident waiting to happen. But there is little risk of receiving a ticket, which carries a $120 fine for illegally stopping on the emergency shoulder, because neither the Chicago Police Department nor the Illinois State Police vigorously enforces the law, officials acknowledged.
"We try to monitor that area and are aware of violators," state police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. "More enforcement from the Chicago Police Department and Illinois State Police will need to be coordinated."
When? Officials did not say.
Chicago police officials said traffic enforcement on I-190 "is a shared responsibility" between the two police agencies.
"The CPD has responsibility from Bessie Coleman Drive west (through the airline terminals and the airport exit to the expressway system), with the remainder belonging to Illinois State Police," Chicago police said in a statement. "The CPD remains aggressive in both enforcement and in reminding drivers to utilize the remote cellphone lot."
The line that separates Chicago police and state police jurisdictions on I-190 is mile post 2.06, which is about 75 feet west of the Mannheim Road South exit ramp, according to the written agreement between the two agencies. Chicago police are responsible from that point, going west on I-190; and state police troopers are responsible for patrolling I-190 east of that location, extending to the Kennedy Expressway, Jane Addams Memorial Tollway and Tri-State Tollway.
The illegally parked cars observed by your Getting Around reporter, as well as by Tribune readers who have sent tips about the problem, are in both police jurisdictions.
The Chicago Department of Aviation is also aware of the problem, department spokeswoman Karen Pride said.
The aviation department, which works closely with city police and the Chicago Traffic Management Authority to ticket and tow vehicles illegally parked outside the airline terminals, made some sign changes on I-190 last year to help direct drivers to the O'Hare cellphone lot, Pride said.
"(Additional) plans to install a new sign before the toll booth feeding into westbound I-190 from the Jane Addams have been in the works since late last year. The sign is expected to be installed within the next several weeks," Pride said.
More information never hurts. But many violators who hog the emergency shoulder probably already know there is safe, legal and free parking available at the cellphone lot next to economy parking lot F. All you have to do is exit I-190 at North Mannheim Road and follow the signs to the cellphone lot. From there, it's about a five-minute drive to the airport terminals.
The cellphone lot opened in June 2006. More than 268,000 vehicles used it last year, Pride said.
Another option, closer to the terminals, is to park in the airport garage or lots. Parking is $2 for one hour or less, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
But surely the attitude among some drivers is: Why be bothered playing by the rules when you can camp out on the side of I-190 with no repercussions?
The police and aviation departments are zealous about instructing the traffic control aides to shoo away or ticket drivers who sit, even for a minute, in their vehicles curbside outside the airport terminals, with motors running. The rationale is that any of those vehicles could be packed with explosives.
Isn't a pileup on I-190 a more likely threat?
And safety matters aside, why aren't the city and the state cashing in on the potential bonanza of $120 tickets?
Getting Around would like to hear what you think. Pride said the city Aviation Department also invites readers to forward their observations and concerns about the problem. Contact information is at flychicago.com/OHare/EN/Connect/Pages/default.aspx.
Contact Getting Around at email@example.com or c/o the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; on Twitter @jhilkevitch; and at facebook.com/jhilkevitch. Read recent columns at chicagotribune.com/gettingaround.
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