Jul 26, 2014
Partly Cloudy

Chicago NATO Summit: A Suburbanite’s Survival Guide

Life as we know it may be disrupted a bit while the eyes of the world are on Chicago for three days.

Chicago NATO Summit: A Suburbanite’s Survival Guide

For the first time, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will be holding a summit in an American city other than Washington, D.C. In addition to global leaders, more than 2,000 journalists and countless demonstrators and activists are expected to inundate the Chicago area.

Some protests have already begun. Security measures are in place for the days before the summit and the actual meeting days, Sunday, May 20 and Monday, May 21, when more than 60 heads of state and government will come together to discuss security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Although you are not a NATO delegate, some of the plans may affect your life during this time. Here is a rundown of the security plans as they now stand. Check websites listed below for any last-minute changes.


Passengers on all Metra lines will be subject to screening and baggage checks and severe restrictions on what they can carry on trains from Saturday, May 19 to Monday, May 21.

Allowed: Only one bag and it cannot exceed 15 inches square and 4 inches deep. And Metra is stressing: Only one bag.

Not Allowed: Boxes, parcels, luggage, backpacks and bicycles. Leave coffee cups and water bottles at home because liquid and food will be prohibited on all trains. Also prohibited will be tools, including pipes and stakes, as well as pocket knives and pepper spray. Security guards will not be allowed to carry weapons. All law enforcement personnel must identify themselves and present their credentials and any weapons to Metra.

Electric District trains, which run under McCormick Place where the summit is being held, will continue to operate, but some stations will be closed. Riders are being advised to arrive at stations at least 15 minutes before departure to allow for extra screening.

Read through Metra's full rundown of security measures, station closures and other information about the NATO Summit on their website.

Commuters can also sign up to receive Metra email alerts should delays or changes occur. Just in case, you may want to follow Metra on Twitter.

CTA Buses/Rail

Twenty-six CTA bus routes will be altered. Here's the rundown. CTA officials say el train service should operate as normal. You can sign up to receive CTA email and text alerts.

Road Closures

Portions of I-55 (Stevenson Expressway) and Lake Shore Drive will be shut down during the summit. Other roads and interstate highways may also experience intermittent traffic delays.

Beginning Saturday, May 19, until Monday, May 21, expect intermittent traffic delays and temporary road and interstate closures and throughout downtown Chicago for motorcades traveling to and from McCormick Place and other event sites.

If you need to use the regional expressway system to get to work, school or other cultural events, affected routes include:

  • I-90/94 East and West between downtown Chicago and I-55;
  • Roosevelt Road, 18th Street, and Canal Port Avenue access from I-94 West (Dan Ryan Expressway);
  • Ohio Street from I-90/94 to Fairbanks Court/Columbus Drive;
  • Ontario Street from Fairbanks Court/Columbus Drive;
  • I-90 East and West (Kennedy Expressway) between O’Hare International Airport and downtown Chicago.

Other road closures and pedestrian restrictions will be implemented beginning midnight Saturday, May 19 (Friday midnight into Saturday). Affected roadways below will re-open for evening rush hour on Monday, May 21:

  • Northbound and southbound Lake Shore Drive between E. Balbo Avenue and E 39th Street;
  • Northbound and southbound I-55 between I-90/94 to Lake Shore Drive.

Working Downtown

Workers in the Loop, meanwhile, are expecting a hassle, and many companies are urging employees to telecommute, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Museum Closings

The Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium and will be closed from Saturday, May 19 in anticipation of the NATO summit through Monday, May 21. The Field Museum will close Sunday and Monday. The decision to close was based on the plan to close Lake Shore Drive early Saturday, May 19, until the Monday, May 21, evening rush hour, as well as parking restrictions at the Museum Campus.

"I think, from our perspective, there was a lot of uncertainty," the Chicago Tribune quoted Shedd spokesman Roger Germann about the logistical problems. "So we wanted to hedge our bets for our staff and guests and get the message out early."

Germann said the museum will still receive exposure from tourists and dignitaries coming before the summit begins or staying a day or two after it ends.

The Art Institute, which is in the Loop and near other road closings, will close for the same three days for similar logistical reasons, spokeswoman Erin Hogan told the Tribune. “There hasn't been an event like this, so we wanted to err on the side of caution," she said, adding it was not because of security concerns.

As for financial impact, there has been no request made for compensation for lost admission revenue, officials from the three museums said. Jennifer Martinez, Chicago NATO host committee spokeswoman, told the Tribune that the decision to close the two additional days was left to each museum.

Although the Art Institute will be closed to the public, it will be filled on Sunday when First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a private dinner for the NATO spouses there.

The Museum of Science and Industry, which is south of the NATO traffic, will be open during the summit.

Crosstown Classic

The Chicago White Sox will be at Wrigley Field to play the Chicago Cubs. Game times are 1:20 Friday, 6:15 p.m. Saturday and 1:20 p.m. Sunday. The games are expected to be played, and the public is advised to take public transportation. 

No-fly Zone

Oh, and if for some reason you plan on flying your non-commercial plane through the NATO no-fly zone, just don't do it. Authorities say anyone violating the restriction, which CBS 2 reports will extend from Lake County, Ind. to Lake County in Illinois, might be shot down. For real.

NATO Summit Website

To follow the summit, information on events open to the public and other NATO facts, visit the official Chicago 2012 NATO website.

Do you plan to stay away from Chicago during the NATO summit?

Don’t miss updates from Patch!