Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Sign Posted Beneath the Expressway:

Limited Access Area The Illinois Department of Transportation announces this area is restricted and not intended for public and or private use. The Department will without notice perform needed repairs or discard unnecessary items when deemed necessary in continued interest of public health and safety.

The area IDOT refers to is the sloping "dead" space where Armitage Avenue passes under the expressway. They've blocked it off with a fancy iron fence, and there's no mistaking their intended audience. The sheltering nature of the underpass attracts homeless men, not toddlers or hotdog salesmen.

I'd like to think that IDOT's language suggests they didn't enjoy disrupting these guys' lives. The sign doesn't prohibit the area from use, and it says IDOT might have to throw some of the guys' stuff out if IDOT needs to work on the bridge or if it attracts rats, but nobody's getting arrested. IDOT seems to be saying, "Okay, it's cool if you're here, but we reserve the right to draw the line somewhere sometime if we have to. And, we're putting up a fence to make people who get pissy about your being here think we're doing something about it. Sorry."


This morning at North Avenue (where they've also posted signs and fences), I could see a few men tucked up under the expressway as rush hour crawled above them. They minded their own business and shuffled their shopping carts about behind the chain link fence. For a moment, they seemed safe from the passing world.

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