ROGERS PARK — Construction crews building a Red Line electrical substation near Farwell Avenue have been ordered to stop parking their personal cars on public sidewalks after residents complained about the illegal habit, authorities said.
"The work they're doing is fine and good and really important," said Michael Pollard, 43, who lives nearby with his family. "But they should be accountable to everyday things like everyone else. If I parked there I would get a ticket or get towed."
Pollard said he took his complaints to neighbors and to the alderman when he saw a slew of vehicles, many without city stickers, parked in no-parking zones on Glenwood Avenue beside the Red Line embankment — as well as on sidewalks under the Farwell Avenue viaduct.
This week, several cars could be seen parked on sidewalks surrounding the new site of the electrical substation that has been under construction for about a year.
A worker who had parked his minivan on the Farwell Avenue sidewalk told DNAinfo Chicago he was allowed to park there under an agreement with the city.
"See this vest," the worker said, pointing to a neon safety vest on his dashboard, "that shows I'm not just someone from the neighborhood trying to score a free parking spot."
The worker, who declined to give his name, said the vest protects him from getting towed.
But both the CTA and city's Transportation Department said parking in the public way without a permit was illegal — with or without a vest.
"The parking of vehicles on sidewalks is not allowed, and we'll be working with them to find alternative parking," said Lambrini Lukidis, a CTA spokeswoman.
Peter Scales, a CDOT spokesman, said the workers “will have to move their vehicles.”
It's unclear whether the workers will be allowed to continue parking in zones with no-parking signs.
The project’s contractor, F.H. Paschen, didn’t respond to a request for comment, but city permits show the company has been cleared to close parts of Farwell Avenue since the project began. Short-term permits allowed the company to fully close the street at some times.
In August 2012, the contractor, which is based in the O'Hare neighborhood on the Northwest Side, won a $46.8 million contract to build three North Side substations intended to boost power to passing trains.
Daniel McLaughlin, the executive director of the Builders Association, which represents construction contractors throughout the city, said contractors must work with building owners and residents to limit inconvenience to neighbors.
“Every construction project has its unique set of issues," he said, "and parking for the contractors’ employees is one of them."
Pollard said he first noticed the workers' parking habits while walking to the Morse Avenue "L" station on his way to work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
"It screams of, like, exclusiveness," he said, adding that the illegally parked cars — both on the sidewalks and in no-parking zones on the street — were an inconvenience to pedestrians, motorists, garbage trucks and buses navigating narrow streets.
When he saw a truck with off-road tires and lifted suspension, which he likened to a "monster truck," he said he snapped a couple of photos and shared them with neighborhood residents.
One of the photographs appears to show a car and nearby dumpsters almost completely blocking the sidewalk.
"They shouldn't be in fire lanes and sidewalks, especially with all the ice right now," Pollard said. "I'm just looking out for my neighborhood."
But some neighbors, even after seeing the illegally parked cars, said the situation didn't bother them.
"It's not that bad. I don't mind," resident Noel Camacho, 46, said as he passed the cars earlier this week. "I just think, let them do their work."
Another resident, who gave his name as Dan F., sympathized with the workers.
"Parking is always tough in Rogers Park," he said.
And if the workers park on the sidewalk, he added, "they don't take up my parking spot."