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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

(Above) Actor George C. Scott portrays General George S. Patton in the 1970 film, Patton.

Is Lincoln Park traffic gridlock a symptom of over-development?

Where was the ghost of actor George C. Scott portraying World War II General George S. Patton when the Great Lincoln Park Traffic Jam Nightmare occurred on May 31?

13-Jun-16 – In the Academy Award-winning movie, the late, great actor George C. Scott, while portraying Patton, encountered a massive traffic jam at a muddy crossroads while the U.S. Army was sweeping across France and Belgium in December 1944. Scott, as Patton, was on his way to Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, one of the biggest and bloodiest battles of World War II.

Acting as a traffic cop while perched on his Jeep, Scott barks orders like “Old Blood and Guts,” takes command of the crossroads, and untangles a mass of gridlocked U.S. Army tanks, trucks, and griping GIs in a matter of minutes.

This writer – along with thousands of other motorists – longed for a Patton-like traffic cop to save them while trapped for up to two hours in rain-soaked vehicles on the way to get a mandatory auto emissions test at the State of Illinois facility on Webster Avenue in Bucktown.

Between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on May 31, massive traffic backlogs were reported near Webster and Ashland, where motorists complained of being stranded for hours. Bumper-to-bumper backups also were reported on Southport between Fullerton and Webster, and on Clybourn between Fullerton and Diversey.

Aggressive Lincoln Parkers driving Escalades, Land Rovers, and other luxury SUVs pushed their way from side streets into major thoroughfares containing traffic that was just inching along.

Photo by Don DeBat

(Above) Rush hour on Lake Shore Drive. Photo by Don DeBat.

These idiotic drivers actually worsened the gridlock by not waiting at stop signs for side-street traffic in front of them to clear the right-of-way. They just stubbornly blocked intersections like the U.S. Army tanks and trucks on that muddy road to Bastogne. Only bicycle traffic was moving. Neither the ghost of George C. Scott nor a Chicago traffic cop was there to unknot the mess.

Marching to emissions tests

The historic Lincoln Park traffic jam resulted after thousands of city motorists received three-by-five-inch postcards from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency that announced, “Your Vehicle’s Emissions Test Is Now Due!”

“Records indicate your vehicle must comply with the Illinois Vehicle Emissions Inspection Law of 2005” before May 31, 2016, in order to renew its registration, the notice warned.

“Please take the vehicle to an official Air Team inspection facility before the test date displayed on the front of this postcard.”

Escaping Condo Jail Angry motorists can partly blame the State of Illinois for being trapped in Lincoln Park traffic jail. The rush to obtain an emissions test was partially caused by the nearly bankrupt state foregoing the mailing of notices on mandatory vehicle testing, analyst say.

Between December 2015 and April 2016, the cash-strapped IEPA stopped sending notices. While the notices were suspended the Illinois Secretary of State’s office stopped requiring car owners to show proof they had passed an emissions test before renewing their license plates.

Having already renewed the Illinois vehicle sticker on my Chrysler 300C in March 2016 and affixed it to the license plate, this writer wondered, “Why did I foolishly rush out like a lemming toward 1850 West Webster for a mandatory emissions test?”

One revelation was clear. Based on the horn blowing, yelling motorists, and lack of driving etiquette on every gridlocked street in Lincoln Park, frustrated residents are beginning to realize life is just too congested to be enjoyable in one of Chicago’s most desirable neighborhoods.

With new luxury rental buildings and condominiums under construction everywhere and dumpsters parked in front of expensive renovations on nearly every street, Lincoln Park perhaps is becoming over-developed.

Toss in the City of Chicago’s never-ending sewer work to replace 150-year-old infrastructure, Commonwealth Edison and Peoples Gas utility work, and event gridlock caused by endless summer street fests, and we truly have created an unmovable feast of traffic gridlock in Lincoln Park, Lake View, and other North Side lakefront neighborhoods.

Last week, 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith wisely warned drivers to stay away from several streets in Lincoln Park. Maybe it’s time to call a moratorium on development, too.