2018-08-08 / Opinions & Letters

On second thought

Midwest Memo
by Alan Shultz

This saga gets filed under the “be careful what you wish for” file.

To set the stage I must describe to you the route I drive to the office when I am spending time in the city.

Out the driveway, I head east on Randolph and then turn north at Columbus Drive. Midway down Columbus Drive I hit a stop sign. And it is at this incredibly complicated intersection, where the whole affair takes place.

Technically, this corner is the intersection of Columbus and North Water Street. But there is also a downward ramp running west to lower Columbus. It’s a complicated and confusing convergence where drivers do both 90-degree and 180-degree turns to access the down ramp.

About ten years ago an architecturally significant building called the Aqua was built at this location. The balconies on the Aqua look like undulating waves. Visitors come from afar to see this remarkable building. When the building was constructed a lane off Columbus was also added, so in addition to the North Water lanes, the Columbus drive lanes and the down ramp, there is also this afterthought lane leading east into the Aqua.

At this tricky intersection there is a high rise on each corner - one residence, one office tower, one hotel and the Aqua. To this hectic spot of pedestrians and traffic from all these enormous buildings please add one small firehouse, a very busy, very needed, a very shoehorned, firehouse.

I’ve driven through and walked over this congested intersection for so long that I know every detail of the place. I know the ebb and flow, I know the sidewalk cracks and the street potholes. And I know all the visibility issues.

And so it was that one day several years ago I decided on my own that I knew what had to change to make the intersection safer. I realized that much of the visibility issue had to deal with one single parking spot - an illegal parking spot that the firehouse guys claimed daily. It is a short six-foot spot tucked between the Aqua driveway and the firehouse driveway. The firemen all have extended cab pickups. They parked one of those monsters in that spot daily. By so doing they obstructed a stop sign, blocked a pedestrian walk way and created a visual obstruction enough to cause an accident.

That’s when I decided to fight city hall.

So I composed a letter outlining the problem and a diagram of the situation. And I walked it over to the Alderman’s office. An aide met with me, a nice young guy and he listened and nodded his head in all the right spots as I argued my case. A couple months went by, and a letter arrived. It was a thank you letter. The city agreed. The guys would have to park their trucks elsewhere.

And so suddenly the illegal parking spot was open. The main immediate benefit was that visibility improved and the pedestrian walk was safer and the streetscape looked nicer. Months went by, maybe a whole year, and then, back they came, the extended cab pickups, day-after-day.

This time I came a knocking, the Alderman wasn’t all that on board. “Talk to the fire department,” the aide said.

And so I did. To my surprise, the Fire Commissioner agreed. His secretary gave me her private phone number and e-mail. I was to report on the make and model of the offending parkers. I complied.

I made a few calls, shot a few photos with my cell phone, and it worked.

Again, safety and visibility returned to the area and once again the streetscape looked nicer.

I won, right? I got what I wished for.

Except the firehouse guys weren’t going to give up that easily.

Today, and every day thereafter, you will find six large garbage cans occupying the former illegal spot parking over which I fussed. The extended cab pickup that used to illegally park in that spot now squeezes into the spot on the firehouse property where the garbage cans used to sit.

I got my safety and visibility ok, but the streetscape - not so much.

My spouse refers to the spot where the garbage cans permanently rest as the “yours truly” memorial garbage dump.

Duly noted.

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