The city of Chicago has unveiled its traffic strategy for the upcoming NASCAR street race in July. The plan, which was announced on Monday, calls for phased closures of major Downtown streets throughout June and July. The inaugural NASCAR street race, which was announced last year, will take place on July 1-2 in Grant Park and nearby roadways. The sale of tickets has already begun.
While many are excited about the event, residents, park supporters, and neighboring businesses have complained that little information regarding the race’s planning has been made public. However, city officials have assured the public that more than half of the park will be open to visitors throughout preparation, breakdown, and the event.
According to officials, parking restrictions along Columbus Drive will take effect on June 2, and pre-race preparation will now last an additional three days. Most substantial closures won’t happen until June 25. Beginning on June 27, when southbound DuSable Lake Shore Drive will be closed between Balbo Drive and Roosevelt Road, the biggest restrictions affecting traffic Downtown will take place. On June 29, Monroe Drive and McFetridge Road will also be off-limits. Beginning on July 1, the northbound lanes of DuSable Lake Shore Drive between McFetridge Drive and Randolph Street will be closed. The lanes will reopen following the NASCAR street race on Sunday.
The city has been working to prepare for the event for months. Roadwork is already underway to get the streets race-ready, and crews have been out on Columbus Drive and Roosevelt, by Jackson and Balbo Drive. The race course includes portions of Columbus Drive, Balbo Drive, DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Roosevelt Road, Michigan Avenue, Congress Plaza Drive, and Jackson Drive, taking drivers through Grant Park, and within blocks of Soldier Field, which hosted the only other NASCAR race in Chicago in 1956.
Despite the excitement around the event, city officials are warning drivers to expect significant traffic disruptions throughout June and July. While Chicago rush hour is always a challenge, the addition of the downtown NASCAR race could make it one of the biggest traffic challenges that some who drive and work downtown have ever experienced.
The closures will last more than a month, not just a couple of weeks. As crews attempt to remove the track wall, barrier, and viewing buildings after the event, certain streets will start to reopen as early as 7 am on July 3 while others will be reopened in stages through July 15.
The city hopes that the event will drive tourism to Chicago. According to Julie Giese, Chicago Street Race president, the event has already attracted representation from 48 states in 12 different countries. With 80-some days left to go, they anticipate those numbers will continue to grow.