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Mexican Independence Day Celebrations Could Bring More Gridlock Downtown: 'The City's Got Some Work To Do To'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Expect a busy weekend of traffic in and around downtown, with multiple events taking place, including a possible repeat of car caravans creating gridlock as they celebrate Mexican Independence Day again.

In a news conference, Chicago police said there will be rolling closures throughout the downtown area. In a statement, CPD and the Office of Emergency Management and Communication said those closures include DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Roosevelt Road, Michigan Avenue, Ida B. Wells Drive and Columbus Drive Friday night and throughout the weekend.

CBS 2's Steven Graves spoke to someone in the mix after multiple nights of celebrations, who said to expect celebrations to continue, even as some people who live downtown aren't as excited.

Waving Mexican flags in the air, they came out in caravans Wednesday and Thursday night, honking horns, and clogging streets in downtown Chicago for hours.

"Just expressing in the best way possible their affinity and their love for their home country," said Illinois State Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. (D-Chicago).

Gonzalez called the Mexican Independence Day celebrations spontaneous and sporadic meetups.

"I think, just because of COVID, because we've just been holed up for so long, we've just been angsty. Everybody has just been wanting to go outside," he said.

COVID canceled the official Mexican Independence Day Parade on 26th Street in Little Village the past two years.

It's traditionally one of the nation's largest and most popular parades, but with the parade canceled the past two years, those big crowds have brought their celebrations downtown in the form of massive car caravans two years in a row.

"I'm all for that, but it's a little absurd," said Conrad, who lives downtown, and said the celebrations also bring agitations.

Vehicles perform donuts in the street, and the huge lines of cars block paths for emergency vehicles.

"I did see an ambulance try to get off of the highway. It took about 20 minutes to get through. Hopefully they're okay," Conrad said.

DePaul University transportation expert Dr. Joseph Schwieterman said, "the city's got some work to do to figure out how to best handle this."

Illinois State Police helped the Chicago Police Department shut down some expressway ramps for a few hours overnight Thursday into Friday.


The CTA also altered some bus routes. CBS 2's cameras saw people jumping on top of a bus downtown.

Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) is preparing for more Mexican Independence celebration traffic control this weekend, warning that this year's festivities also coincide with Riot Fest in Douglass Park and the Chicago Bears' home opener at Soldier Field.

Schwieterman said the city's street grid is designed for disruptions and rerouting. It's the spontaneity of the large crowds that has posed problems.

"I think we are seeing new ways of people expressing themselves, and traffic engineering's got to keep up," he said.

We know of at least one downtown alderman meeting with police on Friday to discuss how they plan to handle further festivities. OEMC said they have no plans to close streets, but are on standby.


The Chicago Police Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communication released a statement about the upcoming traffic situation:

The City of Chicago is continuing to take the appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all residents around Mexican Independence Day commemoration activities. Due to increased traffic activity within the central business district and to maintain traffic flow, residents can expect rolling closures of DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Roosevelt Road, Michigan Avenue, Ida B. Wells Drive and Columbus Drive tonight and through the weekend.

Additionally, the Illinois State Police will be available to assist the Chicago Police Department with traffic enforcement in and around the central business district expressway ramps. For residents who live or work in the affected area and all critical care workers will be allowed access by showing their driver's license or work identification to Chicago Police Department Officers. The Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) have been monitoring events throughout the city on a 24/7 basis and have measures in place if any activity begins to escalate. We remain committed to ensuring the safety and security of all those participating in the celebratory activities and all events happening citywide this weekend. 

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